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Antisemitism Online

The Woolf Institute completed a study of antisemitism on various social media platforms in partnership with two leading British Jewish organisations: the Antisemitism Policy Trust (whose members form the Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism) and the Community Security Trust.

Using innovative social media data analysis tools, the study addresses various questions concerning the extent of online forms of antisemitism using social media data gathered from Google, Instagram and Twitter.

Previous research work in this area has established the nature of antisemitism online and the ineffectiveness of measures taken by social media companies to tackle it. The Woolf Institute took on the challenge of developing tools to measure, for the first time, the scale of the problem. Our work is intended to establish baseline measurements to guide future studies of antisemitism and other forms of hatred online.

To undertake the analysis, we applied bespoke social media analysis methods using Mozdeh (an open source social media analysis tool developed at the University of Wolverhampton) and a commercially-available platform developed by Pulsar (a leading market research company).

Google: We analysed images and text related to Jewish jokes collected via Google images. We found that searching for Jewish jokes is highly likely to return explicitly antisemitic content regardless of whether Google's public-facing safety tools are switched on or off.

Instagram: We analysed antisemitic hashtags or those with a previously established link to antisemitism. We found a strong, statistically significant relationship between conspiracy theories and antisemitism. We found antisemitic content being supplied to users searching for non-antisemitic conspiracy content. We observed antisemitism content being shared by people engaged in a chaotic world of internet trolling. We measured antisemitic hashtags being shared and liked tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of times by users across the platform.

Twitter: We analysed antisemitic tweets and those with a strong link to antisemitism. We estimated the proportion of tweets about Jewish people or things that are explicitly antisemitic and found that around 1 in 10 are driven by anti-Jewish hatred. We calculated the number of explicitly antisemitic tweets in circulation in the UK and available for UK users. Using bespoke and transparent statistical methods, we found there to be 500,000 explicitly antisemitic tweets in circulation every year: two for every Jewish person in the UK.

For more information, contact Dr Julian Hargreaves at jh970@cam.ac.uk.