Earlier this week, Politico’s Hadas Gold received a vile anti-Semitic threat featuring an image of Gold that had been photoshopped, a Nazi-era Jewish badge imposed over her shirt and a bloody circle on her forehead with a bullet hole at the center. The accompanying message said, “Don’t mess with our boy Trump or you will be first in line for the camp.”
It was just the latest example in an election year marked by displays of anti-Semitism (and basically ever other kind of hateful messaging) on Twitter. It was just the latest example of a journalist being on the receiving end of those messages. And while the anecdotal evidence was unfortunately plentiful, the Anti-Defamation League began an effort last summer to quantify just how much anti-Semitism was happening on Twitter.
The study, released last night, relied on a key word search using anti-Semitic terms to identity anti-Semitic tweets, and found 2.6 million of them from 1.7 million users in the one-year period between August 2015 and July 2016 it used for the analysis. ADL calls that number conservative because of its reliance on commonly used anti-Semitic terms, which leaves out more obscure ones as well as coded language designed to evade monitoring. Collectively, those tweets generated about 10 billion impressions.
It compared its list of anti-Semitic tweets to tweets received by a list of 50,000 journalists and ultimately identified 800 journalists who had been on the receiving end of 19,253 tweets from 1,600 users. Just 10 journalists, all Jewish, got the bulk of it–83 percent, in statistical terms. Those ten journalists are Ben Shapiro, Yair Rosenberg, Jeffrey Goldberg, Sally Kohn, Jonathan Weisman, Jonah Goldberg, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Schwartz and Bethany Mandel.
Shapiro, who resigned from Breitbart in March, received more than 7,400 of those tweets, the most of any journalist:
It’s amazing what’s been unleashed,” Shapiro told the ADL. “I honestly didn’t realize they were out there. It’s every day, every single day.” Despite Shapiro’s efforts to shield his family from the abuse, his wife and baby were targeted as well. “When my child was born there were lots of anti-Semitic responses talking about cockroaches.
The report certainly doesn’t help with Twitter’s reputation as ineffective at rooting out hate speech. Of the 1,600 users ADL identified, just 21 percent had their accounts suspended during the course of the study.
The report notes more than once that the ADL has found no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign is encouraging users to send those kinds of tweets. White supremacist websites, however, were directing their audience to attack journalists on twitter. The report did note that many of the senders identified themselves as Trump supporters in their bios:
Many of the anti-Semitic attackers publicized their role as self-appointed surrogates for Trump and their allegiance to the white nationalist cause. These five words appeared most frequently in the 1,600 Twitter attackers’ account “bios:” Trump, conservative, white, nationalist and American. This demonstrates that those with a propensity to send anti-Semitic tweets are more likely to support Donald Trump, and self-identify as white nationalists and/or conservative. This does not imply that Mr. Trump supported these tweets, or that conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism. It does show that the users directing anti-Semitism toward journalists self-identifed as Trump supporters and nationalist.
The ADL is not just leaving us with some numbers to statistically mark the ugliness of this cycle and its emboldened hate-mongers. Part two of the report, due out in November, will suggest what to do about it.
You can read the full report below, c/o Washingtonian’s Benjamin Freed.