“Online Hate” on J-Wire

Online Hate Prevention Institute, “Online Hate“, May 11, 2015, J-Wire, http://www.jwire.com.au/online-hate/

Violent antisemitic attacks are on the rise, particularly in Europe.

The attacks on the Jewish grocery in France in January 2015 and on a synagogue in Denmark in February 2015 are the culmination of a host of smaller, less reported attacks involving violence, property damage, abuse and threats. For example, the Community Security Trust recorded 1,168 such incidents against Britain’s Jewish population in 2014, more than double that of the previous year. Australia is not immune to this trend. During the Israel-Hamas conflict last year, a Jewish man wasattacked and Jewish children in Sydney were threatened with violence.

However, such hate crimes do not take place in isolation. They are spurred on by hate speech, through which we instigate, encourage and justify hate crimes and hate attacks against specific communities, groups or individuals. In the digital age, it is through online media, particularly social media, that such hate speech is propagated.

Which is why examining whether social media is rife with antisemitic speech directly promoting violence against Jews was an imperative aspect of OHPI’s detailed study “Online Antisemitism: Meeting the Challenge”. The report will be released at the 5th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism on May 12, 2015. It will be made freely available on its website ohpi.org.au after May 13, 2015.

The report analyses over 2000 unique items of online antisemitism, which were crowd-sourced using OHPI’s public online hate reporting tool FightAgainstHate.com. The items were categorised as content promoting violence against Jews, Holocaust denial, traditional antisemitism and new antisemitism (ie, Israel-related antisemitism).

The analysis found that 115 items out of the 2024 items reported, that is nearly 5 per cent, fell into the category of directly “promoting violence against Jews”. This included violence being promoted against “Israelis” or “Zionists”, as both terms are used to refer entirely or predominantly to Jews in this context of violence.

chartThe data analysis also suggested that this category of “promoting violence against Jews” was most prevalent on Twitter (see graph 1). This is not surprising given that Twitter operates on anonymity and catchy and emotional hashtags. Such an environment encourages people to become increasingly irresponsible in their expressions in the hope of being noticed. One of the vilest hashtags to go viral on Twitter during the height of the Israel-Palestine conflict last year was #HitlerWasRight. In justifying the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, it was one of the most vocal, public and direct attacks on Jews on Twitter.

In recent months, Twitter has acknowledged that the abuse and harassment on its platform needs to be addressed and is taking steps to remove such content and identifying and reporting repeated offenders.

OHPI’s online tool is one way that the Jewish people can fight back against rising online antisemitism. The tool can be used by anyone to report online antisemitism on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The tool helps monitor the time taken by the social media platform to remove the content, thus bringing much needed transparency to how social media platforms deal with antisemitic content on their platforms. Jewish organisations can organise their own teams to report online antisemitism, and use the data collected to build similar reports and inform their campaigning and counter-speech efforts.

Below are some examples of Tweets which promote violence against Jews:


tweet1Example 1: This tweet endorses the actions of Hitler and his ‘final solution’ in attempting to exterminate the Jews. The Twitter account promotes the idea of voluntary human extinction, and promotes wiping out humanity’s ‘undesirables’ in a Nazis like fashion.

tweet2Example 2: This tweet takes an anti-theistic stance against Christianity, and its acceptance of other religions, and implies that Jews should be treated as dangerous insects and wiped out accordingly. It is one of many antisemitic posts by a Twitter user who often pushes white-supremacist ideals