A warning: Conspiracy theories about covid help spread anti-Semitic beliefs to a wider audience, warns a new report from the anti-racist advocacy group Hope not Hate. The report says the pandemic has not only revived interest in the conspiracy theory “New World Order” about a secret Jewish elite that aims to rule the world, but right-wing extremist activists have also worked to convert people’s anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination beliefs into active anti-Semitism.
Worst perpetrators: The authors easily managed to find anti-Semitism on all nine platforms they surveyed, including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Some of it uses coded language to avoid detection and moderation of algorithms, but much of it is obvious and easily detectable. Not surprisingly, the authors found a close link between the amount of anti-Semitism on a platform and how easily or loosely it is moderated: the looser moderation, the bigger the problem.
Some details: The report warns that the messaging app Telegram has quickly become one of the worst offenders and has hosted many channels spreading anti-Semitic content, some of which boast tens of thousands of members. A channel promoting the conspiracy theory of the new world order has gained 90,000 followers since its inception in February 2021. However, it is a problem on all platforms. Jewish creators on TikTok have complained that they are facing a flood of anti-Semitism on the platform, and they are often targeted by groups that mass-report their accounts to get them temporarily banned.
A case study: The authors point to a man who was radicalized during the pandemic as a typical example of how people may end up being pressured to adopt more and more extreme views. In early 2020, Attila Hildmann was a successful vegan chef in Germany, but in just one year he went from being seemingly apolitical to “just asking some questions” as a social media influencer to spreading hatred and encouraging violence on its own Telegram channel.
What can be done: Many of the platforms studied have had well over a decade of mastering the regulation and moderation of hate speech, and some progress has been made. Although large platforms have become better at removing anti-Semitic organizations, they are still struggling to remove anti-Semitic content produced by individuals, the report warns.