'Significant Uptick' in anti-Semitic Tweets May be Egged on by Campaign 'Atmosphere,' ADL Reports

Searching for keywords such as “kike” and hashtags such as #ZioNazi, the Anti-Defamation League uncovered 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets reaching 10 billion Twitter users spanning the earlier part of the campaign season from August 2015 to July 2016.

At least 800 journalists were the target of those anti-Semitic tweets, with the 10 most targeted journalists, all Jewish, received 83 percent of the tweets directed at media, according to the new report compiled by ADL’s Task Force on Hate Speech and Journalism, which was formed in June.

Twitter accounts responsible for just 16 percent of the anti-Semitic tweets had been suspended. Sixty percent of anti-Semitic tweets were replies to tweets from journalists. Non-Jewish journalists also received anti-Semitic messages, “presumably intended to be either an insult or threat.”

A “significant uptick” in anti-Semitic tweets was seen as campaign season heated up from January through July.

“There is evidence that a considerable number of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists originate with people identifying themselves as Trump supporters, ‘conservatives’ or extreme right-wing elements. The words that show up most in the bios of Twitter user’s sending anti-Semitic tweets to journalists are ‘Trump,’ ‘nationalist,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘American’ and ‘white.’ This finding does not imply that Mr. Trump supported these tweets, or that conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism. It does show that the individuals directing anti-Semitism toward journalists self-identified as Trump supporters and conservatives,” the report states.

“While anti-Semitic tweets tended to spike in the wake of election-related news coverage, the language used in the anti-Semitic tweets was not solely election-related. Many tweets referenced classic anti-Semitic tropes (Jews control the media, Jews control global finance, Jews perpetrated 9/11, etc.). This suggests that while the initial provocation for anti-Semitic tweets may have been at least nominally election-related, the Twitter users generating targeted anti-Semitism may have used news events as an excuse to unleash anti-Semitic memes, harassment, etc.”

The ADL report stressed that “there is no evidence suggesting these attacks were explicitly encouraged by any campaign or candidate,” but the group “has been able to identify individuals and websites in the white supremacist world that have played a role in encouraging these attacks,” including Andrew Anglin, founder of the The Daily Stormer, and Lee Rogers of Infostormer.

However, the report added, Trump “may have created an atmosphere in which such targeting arose.”

After Julia Ioffe wrote a profile of Melania Trump for the May issue of GQ magazine, the barrage of tweets she received included one calling her “filthy Russian kike” and others sent the journalist photos of concentration camps with captions such as “Back to the Ovens!”

New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman has “received images of ovens, of himself wearing Nazi ‘Juden’ stars, and of Auschwitz’s infamous entry gates, the path painted over with the Trump logo, and the iron letters refashioned to read ‘Machen Amerika Great.’”

Ben Shapiro has been called a “Christ-Killer” and a “kike,” among other anti-Semitic tweets. Commentary editors John Podhoretz and Noah Rothman were also cited as receiving a flood of tweets from anti-Semites.

Bethany Mandel told ADL that she has received anti-Semitic tweets before, but the volume and apparent coordination stands out in this year’s attacks. “One user tweeted about her for 19 hours straight, and she received messages containing incendiary language about her family, and images with her face superimposed on photos of Nazi concentration camps.”

The report warned that their figures were conservative, as the methodology of scouring Twitter for anti-Semitic keywords could have bypassed “ways in which anti-Semites will create ‘codes’ to avoid censure and potential exclusion by social media platforms.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the “spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics.”

“A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter,” Greenblatt said. “We are concerned about the impact of this hate on the ability of journalists to do their job and on free speech, which is why we established this Task Force. We hope this report hastens efforts to combat the surge of hate on social media. We look forward to working with Twitter, media companies, and other online platforms to limit hate and harassment and preserve freedom of speech.”