The online public sphere—now a primary arena for communication about American politics— has become progressively unhospitable for Jewish Americans, according to the latest report from the Anti-Defamation League.
“Prior to the election of President Donald Trump, anti-Semitic harassment and attacks were rare and unexpected, even for Jewish Americans who were prominently situated in the public eye,” states the reports conclusion. “Following his election, anti-Semitism has become normalized and harassment is a daily occurrence.
“The harassment, deeply rooted in age-old conspiracies such as the New World Order, which alleges that an evil cabal of Jewish people have taken autocratic control of the globe, and Holocaust imagery—faces placed inside Nazi concentration camp ovens or stretched on lampshades— shows no signs of abating.
The harassment is largely perpetrated by individuals, as opposed to mass automated ‘bot’ network, the report states.
The ADL report examines the ways in which online propaganda, harassment and political manipulation are affecting Jewish people in the run-up to 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Its analyses suggests that tools like social media bots, and tactics including doxxing, disinformation and politically-motivated threats, have been used online during the 2018 midterms to target Jewish Americans. According to interviewees, veiled human users — rather than automated accounts — often deliver the most worrisome and harmful anti-Semitic attacks.
Following revelations about the role of computational propaganda in the 2016 election, there has been an undisputed rise in white supremacist activities and overt anti-Semitism, according to the report. From 2016 to 2017, the number of established neo-Nazi groups increased from 99 to 121; twice as many hate-motivated murders were committed by white supremacists; and there was a 258 percent increase in the number of white supremacist propaganda incidents on college campuses. While not all white supremacist groups consider themselves anti-Semitic, anti-Semitism is often a core tenet of white supremacy and, by extension, white nationalism and neo-Nazism.
The organization’s researchers analyzed more than 7.5 million Twitter messages from Aug. 31 to Sept. 17 and found nearly 30 percent of the accounts repeatedly tweeting derogatory terms about Jews appeared to be automated “bots.”
ADL’s analysis of more than 100 million posts on Gab and 4chan’s Politically Incorrect message board found that, between July 2016 and January 2018, the use of the terms “Jew” and “kike,” a derogatory term for Jewish people, more than doubled. Spikes also occurred in the use of both terms following President Trump’s inauguration and the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va.
On Twitter, Jewish journalists have faced an onslaught of online persecution and trolling. Between August 2015 to July 2016, a study featuring 800 journalists found that they received 19,253 “overtly anti-Semitic tweets,” with 10 prominent Jewish journalists receiving 83 percent of the tweets.
“The themes of this online harassment against the Jewish American community, especially against journalists and prominent members of the group, have been carried from the 2016 U.S. presidential election to the 2018 midterm contest,” the report concludes.