Mark Gardner

Social media plays a key role in rise of hatred against Jews

The online world is out of control and Twitter's new policies won't help

August 03, 2023 11:33

The CST’s latest report shows how online changes impact antisemitism here in Britain. It also shows the importance of leadership and influence in tackling or encouraging antisemitism.

We’ve been here before. It’s how antisemitism works. There is a base level of hatred out there that never disappears, but all the other factors of politics and policies, of leadership, of mood and atmosphere, cause that hatred to flourish, or to be suppressed.

We saw it when Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour Party. Whether the man is personally an antisemite, or who gets to define that, is beside the point. What Corbyn said mattered, but how he said it mattered more. He was, and remains, an “influencer”.

Now Labour is under new leadership. Policies and actions by the new influencer-in-chief, Sir Keir Starmer, set an opposite tone. Consequently, antisemitism within the Labour Party has dramatically declined. Statistically, it is no longer relevant within the over 100 incidents reported every month to CST.

This brings us to Twitter’s new leadership. There isn’t much politically, culturally, or intellectually that connects Elon Musk and Corbyn, but a change in leadership and attitude at Twitter has been widely publicised. The data on antisemitism now reflects this.

The amount of online antisemitism reported to CST rose 37 per cent, because Twitter-sourced reports shot up by 79 per cent. Numerically, 134 of the 210 online incidents took place on Twitter. During the same period last year, 75 of the 153 online incidents took place on Twitter.

Without the extra 59 incidents on Twitter, the January to June online total would essentially have stayed static. Instead, it is up by over a third.

The detail of Twitter’s new policies is best described as “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”. Users are given greater freedom to tweet what they like, but Twitter’s algorithms will push harmful or offensive tweets into obscurity, so few people see them.

At best, the rise in Twitter antisemitism suggests its policy isn’t working. At worst, what if the algorithms are brilliantly suppressing the antisemitism, but we still see a visible rise of 79 per cent?

What would that say about the actual levels of antisemitism on Twitter — whether directed at Jews, or directed at users to incite them to become antisemitic?

Thanks to social media, people can broadcast their hatreds for the world to see. The online world is out of control and its impact is with us everywhere.

August 03, 2023 11:33

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