U.S. Election Caused New High in anti-Semitism on Social Media in 2016, Watchdog Says

Israeli watchdog releases figures showing jump in anti-Semitic incidents online, especially on Twitter.

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Screen grab of Donald Trump's tweet of an image of Hillary Clinton with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever" on a Star of David-like form. July 2, 2016.
A tweet from Trump during the election deemed by some to be anti-Semitic due to the use of a star of David over a background of money.Credit: Twitter

More than 30,000 incidents of anti-Semitism were identified on social media in 2016, the director of a watchdog that monitors online attacks against Jews told a Knesset committee on Tuesday.

Ido Daniel, the director of Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, said the incidents were tracked on four main social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Speaking at the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, he said detailed findings would be published in the organization’s annual report, scheduled for release within the next few weeks.

The Knesset committee held a special session on Tuesday devoted to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. It was attended by representatives of Jewish student organizations from around the world.

Speaking with Haaretz following the session, Daniel said that right-wing extremists were responsible for the “overwhelming majority” of anti-Semitic incidents tracked on social media last year. “Much of it was related to the elections in the United States,” he said, “and it was especially pronounced on Twitter.” 

ISCA, a student-run organization, does not consider attacks on Israel as part of its definition of anti-Semitism, he said. In counting incidents of online anti-Semitism, it includes posts, tweets, photographs, accounts and pages. The organization does not, however, take into account comments on posts or re-tweets.

Ever since ISCA began tracking online anti-Semitism five years ago, Daniel said, the number of incidents has risen from year to year. In 2015, the organization identified slightly more than 29,000 incidents of anti-Semitism on social media. That year, though, right-wing groups did not account for as large a share as they did in 2016, he said.

ISCA tracks social media in 17 different languages and employs a staff of 80, making it one of the biggest organizations in the world engaged in monitoring online anti-Semitism.