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Studies find rise in anti-Semitic activity on Twitter, Instagram

Studies find rise in anti-Semitic activity on Twitter, Instagram
© Denver Post

Two separate studies found a notable increase in anti-Semitic images and other posts on Twitter and Instagram over the past year, despite content policies on both platforms supposedly banning hateful content against minority groups.

A study released Friday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that tracks anti-Jewish sentiment, reported the existence of “online propaganda offensives” containing anti-Semitic content designed to intimidate Jewish people and Jewish journalists ahead of the 2018 midterms.

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The study also names social media platforms such as Twitter as "key facilitators" of "anti-Semitic harassment."

“The themes of this online harassment against the Jewish American community, especially against journalists and prominent members of this group, have been carried from the 2016 presidential election to the 2018 midterm content,” ADL fellow and Harvard scholar Samuel Woodley wrote in the study.

Nearly 30 percent of the more than 7.5 million tweets analyzed were revealed to be from "bots," or automated accounts, designed to push anti-Semitic content which researchers agreed was “worse on Twitter than on Facebook," according to the ADL.

“Online hate is not some idle threat that just lives online and can be ignored. Technology companies need to work harder and faster to curb the vicious violence-inducing harassment on their platforms,” the ADL's CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a news release.

A separate study from Columbia University professor Jonathan Albright found Instagram searches for "George Soros," a Jewish American billionaire Democratic mega-donor turned up impostor accounts often containing anti-Semitic smears of the businessman, according to NBC News. Similar images and posts could be found by searching "#Soros" on the platform.

“What was shocking to me for this Soros tag were the nature of the images and the prevalence of hate speech in the captions,” Albright told NBC News. “Especially this close to the 2018 election, and in spite of what happened last time around.”

On Twitter, Albright suggested solutions the tech platform could follow to cut down on anti-Semitic content.

"My recommendation to @Instagram: shut these hashtags down. Seriously," he wrote. "[A]nd please, for once, stop autofilling and suggesting queries for controversial topics."

In a statement to NBC, Instagram said it was reviewing Albright's findings but said the company had not noticed a noticeable increase in prohibited posts related to Soros.

"We are working closely with Facebook to understand the false content they are seeing, and applying those insights to Instagram to detect any policy-violating behavior. Any content which violates our Community Guidelines, for example hate speech, will be removed," an Instagram spokesperson told NBC.