Report: Millions of tweets spread anti-Semitic messages


Associated Press

Millions of anti-Semitic messages on Twitter have spread negative stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews across the social media platform, according to a report Monday by the Anti-Defamation League.

ADL national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the data showed many used Twitter as a “megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews.”

An earlier report from the Jewish civil-rights group said anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. last year had reached the highest tally it has counted in more than two decades. That increase appeared to be fueled by emboldened far-right extremists as well as the “divisive state of our national discourse,” Greenblatt said in February.

In the new report, the group estimated that about 3 million Twitter users posted or re-posted at least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets in English over a 12-month period ending Jan. 28. The finding is based on a reviewed sample of 55,000 tweets and had a 3 percent margin of error, the report said.

“Of course, 4.2 million tweets is a very small number out of the trillions of tweets sent on the platform each year,” the report said. “But that does not negate the lived experience of Jews who have found Twitter to be a toxic environment.”

Twitter says it has made over 30 changes to its platform, policies and operations in the past 16 months to protect its users from abuse and hateful images.

“We are an open platform and hold a mirror up to human behaviors, both the good and the bad,” the company said. “Everyone has a part to play in building a more compassionate and empathetic society, including Twitter.”

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, said the ADL’s findings reinforce the need for Twitter and other platforms to hire more “human content moderators” to weed out hateful activity. It’s not enough to rely on artificial intelligence or users to do that job, Grygiel added.

Yair Rosenberg, a senior writer at Tablet Magazine, co-created a Twitter “bot” called Impostor Buster designed to unmask online trolls who posted anti-Semitic and racist tweets under the guise of being Jewish or other minorities. Twitter permanently suspended the bot last year after many neo-Nazi trolls blocked the account and filed spam complaints about it, Rosenberg said.

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