In Germany, online antisemitism is going mainstream, study finds
A long-awaited study by internationally renowned antisemitism expert Monika Schwarz-Friesel has found that the amount of German antisemitic content on the internet has grown massively in the last 10 years, permeates mainstream society, and is increasingly extreme.
Released Wednesday, the research project studied 300,000 pieces of German internet content between 2014 and 2018, with a focus on social media. During the first year of the study, slightly less than 23 percent of the content was classified as antisemitic. In 2017, this number had jumped to over 30%.
A similar study conducted by Schwarz-Friesel in 2007 found only 7.5% of the internet content examined to be antisemitic, indicating an increase of more than 22% over the last decade.
The latest results show not only a massive increase in the amount of antisemitic content found online, but also a radicalization in terms of the content’s quality. For example, antisemitic comments in response to news and other articles have not only grown in number, but have become more rabid.
The study was funded by the German Research Association, and the results were published today at a press conference at the Techinical University of Berlin, where Schwarz-Friesel is a professor of cognitive science.
“Antisemitism is ubiquitous in online communication,” says Schwarz-Friesel. “It has also increased and intensified in regard to Web 2.0, and hyperlinks to photos, texts, songs, and films.”
In fact, campaigns against antisemitism themselves on social media networks such as Facebook elicit massive amounts of anti-Jewish comments. Thirty-eight percent of comments posted in response to a 2014 German Facebook campaign entitled #Never Again Jew-Hatred were actually antisemitic.
The study also found that much online antisemitism appears as stereotypes projected at the State of Israel.
Schwarz-Friesel says that Israel-related antisemitism can be distinguished from legitimate criticism of Israel through several clearly defined and scientifically grounded concepts. She says there is little ground for oft-voiced concerns that any criticism of Israel can potentially be viewed as antisemitic.
“It has been scientifically proven that Israel-related antisemitism is based on classic anti-Jewish stereotypes,” says a statement by Schwarz-Friesel and her team of researchers.
Remarkably, the study also found that antisemitic statements masquerading as criticism of Israel often appear in contexts unrelated to the Middle East conflict.
The Israel-related antisemitism, according to the researchers, is especially worrying as it is often considered to be socially acceptable and therefore meets little resistance among the mainstream and elites of society. This causes it to play an especially integral role in the spreading and consolidation of antisemitic worldviews.
However, antisemitism related to Israel is not the most widespread form of Jew hatred online. Fifty-four percent of the antisemitic material reviewed by researchers was based on classic antisemitic tropes, such as, “Jews are humanity’s greatest woe.”
Countering assertions that Muslim antisemitism is largely a response to Israeli politics, Muslim antisemitism was found to be based on such classic stereotypes more often than on Israel-related topics.
Worryingly, the study claimed that the overall increase in online antisemitism was not coming from extremist elements. This signifies that bigotry against Jews is not confined to radical splinter groups, but rather permeates mainstream society.
Finally, the study found a uniformity in antisemitic notions among users regardless of political affiliation or ideological background, bearing witness to antisemitism’s social entrenchment and cultural continuity.