A new report by the Anti-Defamation League on the rise of anti-Semitic hate targeting journalists online found that, over the last year, Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro was by far the most heavily targeted journalistic figure.
The ADL’s Task Force on Harassment and Journalism conducted a study of online activity over twelve months involving anti-Semitism and found a deeply “troubling” trend: open expression of hatred for Jews, including Jewish journalists, is on the rise.
ADL describes the task force as having worked with “journalists, deans from two of the top journalism schools in the country, and experts on hate speech.” The extensive study, which used a variety of keywords to comb through social media, found that from August 2015 through July 2016 a total of 2.6 million tweets contained anti-Jewish sentiments, with the number intensifying beginning in January:
The report, the first of its kind, presents findings based on a broad set of keywords (and keyword combinations) designed by ADL to capture anti-Semitic language on social media. Using this metric, a total of 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech were posted across Twitter between August 2015 and July 2016. Those tweets had an estimated 10 billion impressions (reach), which ADL believes contributed to reinforcing and normalizing anti-Semitic language – particularly racial slurs and anti-Israel statements — on a massive scale.
ADL found that about 50,000 journalists were targeted among those 2.6 million tweets, with about two-thirds of the tweets directed at journalists sent from 1,600 Twitter accounts. The study found that a “small cohort of journalists bore the brunt of the online abuse” — and the biggest target was Shapiro:
The Task Force identified that some 19,253 overtly anti-Semitic tweets were sent to at least 800 journalists in the U.S. during the 12 month study. The top 10 most targeted journalists – all of whom are Jewish – received 83 percent of those 19,253 tweets. The top 10 includes conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, and CNN’s Sally Kohn and Jake Tapper.
When analysts dug a little deeper, they found that white nationalists and the so-called Alt-Right, most of whom support Donald Trump, appears to be “disproportionately” engaged in the anti-Semitic attacks. The report underscores that the Trump campaign has not supported or endorsed the rhetoric:
The words that appear most frequently in the 1,600 Twitter attackers’ bios are “Trump,” “nationalist,” “conservative,” and “white.” To be clear: this does not imply that the Trump campaign supported or endorsed the anti-Semitic tweets, only that certain self-styled supporters sent these ugly messages. The data also illustrates the connectedness of the attackers: waves of anti-Semitic tweets tend to emerge from closely connected online “communities.”
One section of the report specifically addresses Shapiro as the primary journalistic target of the anti-Jew posts, in part inflamed by his #NeverTrump position:
In February and March 2016, as the so-called #NeverTrump movement took hold, self-styled Trump supporters from the alt-right attacked. (Alt-right is short for “alternative right, “ a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy). This is when the Twitter attacks on Ben Shapiro, an originator of the #NeverTrump movement, began in earnest.
“It’s amazing what’s been unleashed,” Shapiro told ADL. “I honestly didn’t realize they were out there. It’s every day, every single day.” Despite Shapiro’s efforts to shield his family from the abuse, his wife and baby were targeted as well. “When my child was born there were lots of anti-Semitic responses talking about cockroaches.”
Of all the accounts used to launch attacks on Jews, ADL found that Twitter had deactivated less than a quarter, 21 percent.
ADL is promoting the hashtag #exposethehate for tips from social media users on anti-Semitic activity online.