A warning: Conspiracy theories about Covid help bring anti-Semitic beliefs to a wider audience, warns a new report from anti-racist advocacy group Hope not Hate. The report says that not only has the pandemic revived interest in the “New World Order” conspiracy theory of a secret, Jewish-led elite aiming to rule the world, but far-right activists have worked to crack down on the Inoculating lockdown and beliefs into active anti-Semitism.
The worst perpetrators: The authors easily found anti-Semitism on all nine platforms examined, including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Some of it uses coded language to avoid detection and moderation by algorithms, but much of it is open and easy to find. Unsurprisingly, the authors found a close correlation between the level of anti-Semitism on a platform and the ease or looseness of moderation: the looser the moderation, the greater the problem.
Some special features: The report warns that the messaging app Telegram has quickly become one of the worst offenders, hosting many channels that spread anti-Semitic content, some of which have tens of thousands of members. A channel promoting New World Order conspiracy theory has gained 90,000 followers since its launch in February 2021. However, it’s a problem on every platform. Jewish creators of TikTok have complained that they are exposed to a barrage of anti-Semitism on the platform, and they are often attacked by groups who are reporting their accounts en masse to have them temporarily banned.
A case study: As a typical example of how people can be pushed to increasingly extreme views, the authors point to a man who became radicalized during the pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, Attila Hildmann was a successful vegan chef in Germany, but within just one year he became ostensibly apolitical to “only ask a few questions” as a social media influencer and to spit hatred and incite violence on the Telegram channel.
What can be done: Many of the platforms studied had well over a decade to get a grip on the regulation and moderation of hate speech, and some progress has been made. Although the major platforms have gotten better at removing anti-Semitic organizations, they are still struggling to remove anti-Semitic content created by individuals, the report warns.