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9 Things We Learned From the ADL Report on Trolling Jewish Journalists

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report showing the unprecedented online harassment Jews – and especially Jewish journalists – are facing in the age of Twitter and Trump.

“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics, ADL CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a press release. “A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter.”

Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism and one of the authors of the report, mirrored this sentiment.

“It speaks to a larger reality that we at the ADL find troubling,” Segal told the Forward. “People who go on social media sites to connect with old friends, read news or find entertainment – those people at the same time are accessing information that they otherwise would not see.”

This is especially disconcerting given the millions of anti-Semitic tweets the ADL found.

“The problem with Twitter is that voices of credible people – like journalists – are put on the same level as bigots and haters,” Segal said. “And for the general masses, who may not always be thinking critically, it creates a problem, where it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.”

After the election, the ADL will present a second report with recommendations on how to fight cyber hate.

A screenshot from journalist Julia Ioffe’s Twitter, showing a anti-Semitic photo she received after writing a profile of Donald Trump’s wife Melania. Image by Twitter

Here are 9 disturbing facts we learned from the ADL report.

2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets in a year

The task force analyzed keywords and concluded that from August 2015 through July 2016, there were 2.6 million tweets “containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech.” The tweets came from 1.7 million Twitter users.

Exposure like a Super Bowl ad

These 2.6 million tweets reached an estimated 10 billion impressions, which means they showed up in the Twitter feeds of 10 billion people.

“That’s roughly the equivalent social media exposure advertisers could expect from a $20 million Super Bowl ad,” the ADL wrote in its report. They believe that this massive scale of bigotry “reinforces and normalizes anti-Semitic language and tropes.”

800 journalists targeted

The focus of the ADL report was on attacks on journalists. In total, the ADL found that at least 800 journalists received a total of 19,253 overtly anti-Semitic tweets. These tweets reached 45 million impressions.

Image by Screenshot

10 Jewish journalists received majority of attacks

83% of those tweets were targeted at only ten people, all of whom are Jewish.

The top 10 includes the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, and CNN’s Sally Kohn and Jake Tapper.

Ben Shapiro, the former Breitbart editor at large, was alone targeted by more than 7,400 anti- Semitic Tweets.

Only 1,600 accounts responsible for majority of abusive Tweets

The ADL found that just 1,600 Twitter accounts generated 68% of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists. That is 1,600 out of the 313 million Twitter accounts that exist in total.

“Looking at this smaller network of harassers, it’s though to even know where these people are,” Oren Segal, one of the authors of the report, told the Forwards.

He added that while some of the accounts belonged to people the ADL had previously monitored, others could have been bots, computer programs pretending to be a person. There were also accounts with a minimal following, that had clearly only been created to harass.

“The commonality they also had was in the messaging and in the use of memes spreading hatred,” Segal said.

Twitter suspended just 21% of accounts

Of those accounts attacking journalists, only 21% were suspended during the last year. That means that nearly 80% of the trolls are getting away with it.

The ADL will provide Twitter with a list of these accounts, and hopes that they will be suspended soon.

Election brought rise in anti-Semitic attacks

The ADL found that there was a significant uptick in anti-Semitic tweets from January 2016 to July 2016 as coverage of the presidential campaign intensified.

67% of all attacks on journalists were posted in that period.

Many anti-Semitic trolls support Trump

While the ADL doesn’t go as far as saying that Donald Trump is responsible for the onslaught of online anti-Semitism, they did find that many of the attacker openly support Trump.

The words that appeared most frequently in the 1,600 Twitter attackers’ account bios were: Trump, conservative, white, nationalist and American.

Image by ADL

“This demonstrates that those with a propensity to send anti-Semitic tweets are more likely to support Donald Trump, and self-identify as white nationalists and/or conservative,” writes the ADL in the report.

Twitter Trolls are mostly men

This one might not come as a big surprise: Judging from data users disclosed when signing up on Twitter, 66% of all the anti-Semitic attacks came from men.

Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @lillymmaier


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