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Surveys United States

Quantifying hate: a year of antisemitism on Twitter

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Source: ADL
8.    QAnon
1.    Introduction
2.    Major Findings
3.    Methodology
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the impact social media has on our world.
That influence is often wielded in the service of good, think viral fund-raising efforts or protecting democratic movements against authoritarian threats, but it also can powerfully amplify society’s most dangerous attitudes. Racism, sexism, homophobia, religious extremism and conspiracy theories have deep roots in social media, and perpetrators have recognized and capitalized on the near-universal reach of popular platforms.
This report is an effort to gauge the prevalence of one of these destructive prejudices, antisemitism, on one social media platform: Twitter, by examining the one-year period from January 29, 2017 to January 28, 2018.

ADL frequently fields reports from constituents who describe an atmosphere of antisemitism on Twitter, including harassment from antisemitic trolls. We issued previous studies on this phenomenon. Media reports reflect this phenomenon as well. Experts at the ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) wanted to go beyond those reports, to understand the problem in greater detail while examining tweets for nuance and context.  How many antisemitic tweets are posted on Twitter during any given week? How do we know the tweets truly are antisemitic?  What if some of these tweets are intended to convey an ironic or critical message?

Using a proprietary, wide-ranging query, as well as statistical methods and expert analysis, COE analysts were able to determine that roughly 4.2 million antisemitic tweets were posted and reposted on Twitter in the one-year period specified above. We estimate that the tweets were issued by approximately three million unique handles.

Of course, 4.2 million tweets is a very small number out of the trillions of tweets sent on the platform each year. But that does not negate the lived experience of Jews who have found Twitter to be a toxic environment.  This number is still large enough to underscore the powerful harassment that exists and the ease with which a relative handful of users can infect our shared social media environment with negative stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews.

This report, and the random statistical sample of over 55,000 carefully reviewed tweets which it generated, also will be useful to those designing artificial intelligence-based efforts to counter antisemitism and bigotry online.

ADL already works with Twitter to help them address antisemitism and other forms of bigotry on their platform, and we know this is a difficult challenge to solve. We are proud to be part of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council and to partner with Twitter as a member of our Problem Solving Lab to explore engineering-based approaches to address online hate and harassment. We already have seen the company make real progress on these issues and demonstrate leadership among social media platforms.

And yet, despite recent advancements, intolerance on public platforms like Twitter still endures. It degrades the conversation and poisons the public discourse for all. Even a proportionally small number of Tweets that express antisemitism is too many, and any platform that hosts such hate must ensure that it is using all means necessary to tackle the situation even as it seeks to balance legitimate concerns about not inhibiting freedom of expression. For this reason, this report includes not only a detailed review of our findings but a set of recommendations for Twitter to take into consideration as it attempts to address the issue and improve its performance.

We look forward to continuing to work with Twitter, and other platforms that seek our help, to ensure these environments are a safe space for all users, regardless of their faith, race or other immutable attributes.