Antisemitic groups seek alternative platforms to promote hate

They urge to redouble efforts to avoid hateful and anti-Semitic messages (Jack Taylor / Getty Images) (Jack Taylor /)

The Web Observatory released the sixth edition of its Annual Report on Antisemitism on the Internet, after analyzing almost seven million posts, comments and videos published in 2021 through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, and on the digital platforms of various media from seven countries in the region.

The investigation carried out by the Web Observatory -a joint initiative of the Latin American Jewish Congress (CJL), the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA) and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) which has been working against discrimination on the Internet since 2010- determined that “anti-Semitism remained at stable levels throughout the year” on the platforms analyzed. He warned, in turn, that anti-Semitic groups are looking for alternative platforms to promote hate.

This trend of some stability, however, was reversed during the month of May 2021, in the framework of the latest armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. This fact had a strong impact on the web, which is why it is one of the relevant phenomena of the report.

In that period (between May 10 and 21), The researchers found 30 times more posts on Twitter, recording an increase from about 120,000 average monthly posts to more than 3 million. Likewise, the collected anti-Semitism quintupled the monthly average of that network. On Facebook, meanwhile, comments were six times more, and anti-Semitic expressions were seven times higher than average.

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On Facebook, the annual average of discriminatory content towards the Jewish community stands at 7.5%. During the days of the armed conflict with Hamas, this trend reached 10.37%. In those 11 days, 48,808 of the 94,398 total contents were collected: that is, 51.70%.

On Twitter, on the other hand, this phenomenon was confirmed in a much more marked way: from the annual average of 8.89%, it shot up to 19.27%. Throughout the year, 6,561,432 Jewish-themed content was collected, generating more than 67 billion potential user impressions. Of the total material collected, 8.89% had anti-Semitic content, and 49.87% had negative content.

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The same thing happened when analyzing the platforms of the main regional media, where the largest volume of anti-Semitic content was presented during the armed conflict, registering a sharp increase of 71.27%, compared to 33.16% in 2020. Portales de Chile , Uruguay and Panama were the ones that showed levels well above the average.

In 2021, Google search results found a slight increase in anti-Semitism compared to 2020. For the first time since 2018, the percentage of this content (4.86% of the total collected) is higher than the historical average (4.48%). On YouTube, for its part, the number of anti-Semitic videos decreases year after year.

According to the researchers, the low but sustained level of anti-Semitism in Google and YouTube can be explained, among other things, by the regulation implemented by Google. However, this brings a consequence of great concern. This consists of the migration of users to alternative platforms, without moderation policies, such as Bitchute and 4chan.

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“In recent years, as a result of many things that are happening on the Internet, we see with increasing concern a migration of users from larger platforms with moderation, to platforms where there is less moderation, where stronger messages circulate in terms of hate. In fact, on the largest or most well-known platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, perhaps these people are captured and the contact remains, passing to other platforms. It is a phenomenon that is being promoted and it is important to pay attention to it,” he warned. ariel seidlerprogram director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, in dialogue with Infobae.

Regarding the role of social networks and the different platforms, Seidler acknowledged that over the years “they were taking on this issue more”, but clarified that there is still a lot of work to be done: “There is a lot of content that we find, there are many patterns that are followed and they are very clear, and they were communicated from different organizations to the platforms. The same is still a debate, because we understand and endorse freedom of expression, but we see how, despite some announcements regarding certain policy changes, many messages continue to remain online and moderations no matter how much one denounces them in their own channels of the platforms as a simple user, these contents are not removed. We are talking about very violent content, not a content of a debate, but content such as calling to kill people or of that level.

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The study maintains that Internet companies have made “different efforts” to moderate the content that is published, and that in many cases they only reacted after strong criticism from public opinion. “In short, the operation of companies in the sector has repercussions on our societies and, particularly, on hate speech and anti-Semitism.”

51.70% of all the content analyzed by the Web Observatory corresponds to publications made during the days of hostilities between the Israeli Army and Hamas.

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According to the report, this conflict “had an impact on the image of Israel and the Jewish communities of Latin America.” However, if the escalations of violence in 2021 and 2014 are compared, the latter “has been less damaging to Israel’s image, and with lower levels of anti-Semitism.”

Seidler acknowledged to this medium that the same phenomenon was noticed in the last two and a half months since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where an increase in anti-Semitic content was found in publications and social networks. Expressions promoted, even, by the same high officials of the Kremlin, such as Putin referring to the concept of denazification, the accusations regarding the Jewish condition of Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, or the recent statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who stated that ” Hitler had Jewish blood.”

“Different events are happening in humanity, and there are always people who find a way to hold the Jews responsible for what is happening. We have seen it in the pandemic, and in the current conflict in Ukraine. Those who promote anti-Semitism find in any public issue ways to hold the community accountable”rejected the program director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

Regarding the covid-19 pandemic, the report ensures that it updated the anti-Semitic discourses on social networks: “At the beginning of the health crisis, the Jews were held responsible for the disease and for not complying with the restrictions. Later, new conspiracies spread around a plan to dominate the world population through vaccination campaigns and health passes.”

Last year's conflict between Israel and Hamas terrorists exacerbated hateful and anti-Semitic messages on social media (REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Last year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas terrorists exacerbated hateful and anti-Semitic messages on social media (REUTERS / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa) (REUTERS /)

Against this background, the Web Observatory indicates that various States are debating the role of social networks and hate speech. In the case of Latin America, he cites the example of Brazil, where there is a bill to prohibit the denial of the Holocaust, as is the case in some countries of the European Union. On the contrary, “Poland is in clear regression by adopting policies that are fertile ground for Holocaust historical revisionism.” “This discourse has repercussions on social networks and gives rise to a greater circulation of denialist and revisionist arguments that, now being protected by public institutions, lead to higher levels of anti-Semitism.”

Seidler indicated that in Europe and the United States there are higher levels of hate speech promoted by extremist movements. Given this context, he urged the region to redouble efforts to prevent this phenomenon from “permeating through these lands.” For this reason, he highlighted that the Organization of American States (OAS) has appointed its first Commissioner for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism: “It is new for our region and very important that this space has been generated. We have seen anti-Semitism for many years with a very strong character, which crosses the entire region. It could occupy that space of how the European Union works and from there be able to establish working mechanisms with governments, internet companies, and organizations like ours to be able to work on the issue”.

Finally, the report urges States to “promote the creation of environments without discrimination in all aspects of social life, where the Internet stands out as a space of growing importance in terms of the number of interactions that take place there.” And concludes: “The fight against anti-Semitism and hate speech on the Internet is a challenge that must be tackled by a multiplicity of actors: States, companies, civil society organizations and the users themselves. The Internet and social networks offer us endless benefits, but we must use them responsibly. From the Web Observatory we call on each of these actors, with their respective degree of responsibility, to establish working consensus for the creation of safe spaces free of discrimination on the Internet”.

Infographics: Marcelo Regalado


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