A leading civil rights group found an uptick of anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists, intensifying in their vitriol as the race for president has intensified, and were sent by people whose bios mostly included the words “Trump,” “nationalist” and “white.”
“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,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement. “We are concerned about the impact of this hate on the ability of journalists to do their job and on free speech.”
The ADL League released the findings on Wednesday of its unprecedented look at 2.6 million tweets from August 2015 and July 2016, and it promoted the fact that it brought these hateful tweets to Twitter’s attention, getting the San Francisco-based company to deactivate some of the accounts.
The task force advisors who monitored the Tweets included working journalists, deans from Columbia and Medill schools of journalism, a retired FBI director and experts on hate speech.
The ADL focused its analysis on tweets directed at 50,000 journalists in the United States. The study found: a total of 19,253 anti-Semitic tweets were directed at 800 journalists in the U.S. during the 12-month study. The top 10 most targeted journalists – all of whom are Jewish – received 83 percent of those 19,253 tweets.
Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, and CNN’s Sally Kohn and Jake Tapper are among the Top 10 targeted by the anti-Semitic tweeters, the study found.
The report also shows that more 68 percent of the anti-Semitic tweets directed at those journalists were sent by 1,600 Twitter accounts, out of 313 million existing Twitter accounts. Those accounts predominantly identified themselves as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the “alt-right," some of whom are white supremacists, the study found. The words that appear most frequently in the 1,600 Twitter attackers’ bios are “Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative,” and “white,” the study found.
The ADL wanted to make clear that the findings do not imply that the Trump campaign supported or endorsed the anti-Semitic tweets, only that certain “self-styled supporters sent these ugly messages.” Trump has repeatedly denied having any connection to any racist groups.
According to the data analysis, Twitter deactivated 21 percent of the accounts responsible for the tweets aimed at journalists. The other offending accounts remain active, according to the ADL.
The ADL published its first report on cyberhate in 1985. In 2014, ADL – in consultation with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, and YouTube – created best practices to counter online hate.