Young people exposed to ‘widespread anti-Semitism on social media’

Campaign group Hope Not Hate found hateful content on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Young people exposed to ‘widespread anti-Semitism on social media’ iStock

Anti-Semitism is “rife” across social media, with young people being introduced to hateful content via platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, new research says.

A report by campaign group Hope Not Hate found that anti-Semitism is commonly and widely spread through conspiracy theories online, with a major spike during the pandemic.

It found that Google searches for an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory which claims a secret global elite is controlling world events reached their highest level for 15 years in March 2020, while a forum on message board site Reddit dedicated to conspiracies, many containing anti-Semitic tropes, grew by 500,000 users between February and November 2020.

The research, entitled Anti-Semitism in the Digital Age: Online Anti-Semitic Hate, Holocaust Denial, Conspiracy Ideologies and Terrorism in Europe, found that the most extreme and violent anti-Semitic content was found on more niche platforms such as Telegram, Parler and 4chan.

However, it warned that potentially millions of young people are being introduced to conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism via Instagram and TikTok, where Hope Hot Hate said the theories were also prevalent.

The research was carried out in collaboration with Germany-based anti-hate group the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and Swedish anti-hate group the Expo Foundation.

According to the report, there are “millions” of results for hashtags relating to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Instagram, while on TikTok a collection of just three hashtags linked to anti-Semitism were viewed more than 25 million times in six months.

The research noted that almost 70% of global Instagram users are aged 13 to 34, while 69% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24.

“It’s simply astounding that despite ten years of attempts to eradicate hate speech, we were able to find anti-Semitism on every social media platform we investigated,” Hope Not Hate head of research Joe Mulhall said.

“While social media companies have been struggling to get their act together, a new generation of social media users have been introduced to anti-Semitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere.

“The reality is that a lack of action from technology platforms has not only introduced people to hate speech but has now created online spaces where anti-Semitism is allowed to flourish with tragic and long-lasting effects, leaving Jewish communities exposed to the risk of terrorism.

“Enough is enough. It’s now time that we see a strong commitment to banning and moderating any and all forms of anti-Semitism and hate speech across the tech sector.”

In response, a Facebook company spokesperson said: “Antisemitism is completely unacceptable and we don’t allow it anywhere on Instagram.

“We’ve always removed attacks against people based on their religion, and last year we made important updates to our policies, to remove any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, as well as more implicit hate speech, such as harmful stereotypes that Jewish people control the world.

“We’ll continue to work with partners like Hope Not Hate, while developing new ways to remove hateful content and block harmful hashtags more quickly.”

TikTok has also been contacted for comment.

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