Twitter Saw Millions of Anti-Semitic Tweets in 2017: ADL Report

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The spread of hate speech has not ceased on the micro-blogging giant. According to a report by the Anti-Defamation League, Twitter saw over 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets last year (between 29 January 2017 and 28 January 2018). The report, which was released recently, noted that millions of anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared on the social media platform from over 3 million Twitter accounts in 2017.

Twitter must solve its anti-Semitism problem

Most of the accounts, which were sharing or re-sharing the anti-Semitic tweets, were operated by real people and not by any automated software or bots. The anti-Semitic accounts constitute for less than 1% of the overall active accounts on Twitter. The ADL, which is an international NGO, works against anti-Semitism and bigotry.

In a statement, Jonathan Greenblatt – the CEO of the ADL – said that this new data shows that users are still spreading a good amount of anti-Semitic content and are using Twitter as a megaphone to intimidate and harass Jews even after the micro-blogging site has taken several steps to prevent this behavior.

There already has been a lot of concern about an increase in harassment and fake news on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, was summoned last month to testify in front of the U.S. Congress, where he was asked how the company he founded was curbing the spread of fake news.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, has said that harassment on the social media platform is unacceptable and that combatting it is his priority. Dorsey even held a livestream in March to discuss ways to deal with the hate speech issue. Twitter has even made several changes on its platform, including changes in terms of service and prohibiting offensive account names.

Artificial intelligence and algorithms could help in identifying hate speech online: ADL

The study, which used a dataset of around 55k tweets, evaluated tweets on subjects that ranged from anti-Jewish slurs, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic figures, to positive references, podcasts and books. The report indicated that a large number of anti-Semitic tweets were posted last summer during the week of the Charlottesville, Virginia riots.

Comments made by the U.S. President and members of his administration reportedly had an effect on the number of anti-Semitic tweets as well. Most of these tweets were recorded in the same week that Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


The ADL says that algorithms and artificial intelligence will ultimately be useful in identifying hate speech online, but in order to train such systems, human input would be required. Twitter noted in a statement to the ADL that it has made several changes recently to how it controls hate speech, including labelling hate imagery as “sensitive content” and making affiliation with hateful extremist groups as violations of its terms of service.

The social network said it has made more than 30 individual changes to its policies, product and operations in the last 16 months in order to make the platform safer and to improve information quality.


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