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Antisemitism is reaching ‘younger audiences’ via social media, new study shows

On TikTok, three hashtags linked to antisemitism were viewed more than 25 million times in six months, and on Instagram, there are ‘millions’ of antisemitic hashtags, survey finds

Illustrative: An iPhone loaded with TikTok and other social media application icons. (Wachiwit/iStock)
Illustrative: An iPhone loaded with TikTok and other social media application icons. (Wachiwit/iStock)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Antisemitism is being repackaged and disseminated to a younger generation of social media users through platforms like Instagram and TikTok, according to an analysis published on Wednesday.

Antisemitic tropes are “rife across every social media platform,” but companies are failing to act, UK group Hope Not Hate, Germany’s Amadeu Antonio Foundation and the Expo Foundation in Sweden said.

Hate speech remains more prolific and extreme on sites such as Parler and 4chan, but is being introduced to young users on mainstream platforms, the groups said in a joint report.

On Instagram, where almost 70% of global users are aged 13 to 34, there are “millions” of results for hashtags relating to antisemitism, the research found. On TikTok, where 69% of users are aged 16 to 24, it said a collection of three hashtags linked to antisemitism were viewed more than 25 million times in six months.

“A new generation of social media users have been introduced to antisemitic ideas they would be unlikely to encounter elsewhere,” said Hope Not Hate head of research Joe Mulhall.

But according to the report, “tech companies have the ability to affect the amount and extremeness of antisemitism on their platform, and many of them are completely failing to address the issue.”

A woman checks her Instagram account as she stands on a street in New York City on October 4, 2021. (ED JONES / AFP)

The report comes as Facebook, which owns Instagram and the messaging platform WhatsApp, faces intense scrutiny over accusations from a whistleblower that it prioritizes profit over safety and stokes division.

The European research study found that on the mainstream platforms, antisemitism was reaching younger users as conspiracy theories, with an “unprecedented rise” during the pandemic.

It showed Google searches for “New World Order,” an antisemitic conspiracy theory about a secret global elite, reached their highest level for 15 years in March 2020. The pandemic encouraged the online circulation of new lies accusing Jewish people of being responsible for COVID-19, the report said.

It also showed that older narratives such as Holocaust denial had morphed online to “more mocking and internet-friendly forms of denial.”

A Facebook spokesperson said in response that antisemitism was “completely unacceptable” and pointed to changes to its policies last year that more aggressively policed hate speech and Holocaust denial.

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said the platform “condemns antisemitism” and would “keep strengthening our tools for fighting antisemitic content.”

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