Social media isn’t just a cesspool of hate and bigotry for people of color or members of the LGBTQ community. It’s also filled with hateful content for people of varying religions — content that is posted and reshared and becomes close to impossible to remove.
According to a new study conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), 84% of antisemitic content posted online within the five major social media platforms (including Facebook and Twitter) is never deleted or taken down.
Deepa Shivaram of NPR reported on the CCDH study, which found that despite recently promising to crack down on antisemitic hate, “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok did not act on these posts even as they were flagged through the existing tools used for reporting malignant content.”
Even worse, the content was also rabidly consumed. When the CCDH identified and flagged 714 anti-Jewish posts published between May and June of this year, they found that users viewed the content more than 7.3 million times.
In an interview with NPR, CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said, “the study of antisemitism has taught us a lot of things … if you allow it space to grow, it will metastasize. It is a phenomenally resilient cancer in our society.”
According to Shivaram, the CCDH’s findings show that “social media spaces have been ‘unable or unwilling’ to take action against antisemitic posts effectively.”
Ahmed said this study differs from others in that the CCDH wanted to prove social media companies aren’t simply unable to moderate content — they choose not to.
“Ahmed and his team chose to focus on posts that had already been flagged to social media companies through the companies’ own internal systems,” Shivaram reported. “And still, even following their own standards, the social media companies failed to act.”
Based on CCDH research, Shivaram reported when it came to posts that “included antisemitic conspiracy theories about 9/11, the [COVID-19] pandemic and Jewish people controlling world affairs, social media companies didn’t take action on 89% of them. These platforms also [failed to take action] on 80% of posts denying the Holocaust, as well as 70% of posts with neo-Nazi and white supremacist images.”
Facebook was the biggest offender, where 89% of antisemitic posts analyzed in the study remained on the social media platform — despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly claiming last fall that he’d struggled with “the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust.”
Yet even after Facebook announced new policies “prohibit[ing] any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust,” the CCDH says antisemitic speech still flourishes on the site.
“There is this enormous gulf between what they claim and what they do,” Ahmed said.
The CCDH study showed social media sites, including Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, that allowed antisemitic hashtags such as #fakejews and #killthejews provided hate speech with an incredible reach, generating 3.3 million impressions for just the 714 posts.
“TikTok specifically is failing to ban accounts that directly abuse Jewish users,” Shivaram reported. “According to the study, the platform removes just 5% of accounts that do things like sending direct messages about Holocaust denial.”
“There is a reflexive interaction between online and offline racism; they reinforce each other,” Ahmed told NPR.
While there are consequences to antisemitic behavior in the real world offline, Ahmed said online users have no limits, and people can become “radicalized without any boundaries” or experience any repercussions for their actions.
“The online spaces then have an effect on offline spaces because these people have worsened,” Ahmed said. “The failure of these companies is a cost that’s paid in lives.”