Antisemitism is “rife” across social media, with young people exposed to hateful content via platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, new research says.
A report by campaign group Hope Not Hate found that antisemitism is being widely spread through a rise in conspiracy theories online, which spiked during the pandemic.
Google searches for a conspiracy theory which claims a secret global elite is controlling world events reached their highest level for 15 years in March 2020.
And a forum on message board site Reddit dedicated to conspiracies, many containing antisemitic tropes, grew by 500,000 users between February and November 2020.5
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 content was on more niche platforms such as Telegram, Parler, and 4chan.
However, it warned that potentially millions of young people are also being introduced to conspiracy theories and antisemitism via Instagram and TikTok, where Hope Hot Hate said such content was also prevalent.
It comes amid growing calls for social media companies to do more to tackle abuse, such as racist messages towards footballers and the targeting of celebrities.
The new research was done 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 antisemitic conspiracy theories on Instagram. On TikTok, a collection of just three hashtags linked to antisemitism 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.
Hope Not Hate’s head of research, Joe Mulhall, said it was “simply astounding” that the group was able to “find antisemitism on every social media platform we investigated” after “10 years of attempts to eradicate hate speech”.
“While social media companies have been struggling to get their act together, a new generation of social media users have been introduced to antisemitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere,” Mr Mulhall said.
“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 antisemitism 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 antisemitism 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.”
A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement that the platform condemns antisemitism and works “aggressively to combat hate by proactively removing accounts and content that violate our policies and redirecting searches for hateful ideologies to our Community Guidelines”.
“We will keep strengthening our tools for fighting antisemitic content and welcome the opportunity to work with Hope Not Hate, as we already do with many others around the world, to understand evolving trends and help us to regularly evaluate and improve our policies and enforcement processes,” they added. Skynews