More than 382,000 anti-Semitic posts were posted on social media in 2016, reaching over 29 million internet users in over 50 countries, a new report from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) revealed.
Of those, at least 8,000 posts (or 2 per cent of the global total) were observed across social media platforms in Canada, mainly on Twitter. Eighty per cent of the posts were in English and 20 per cent in French, which roughly corresponds to the proportion in which the languages are spoken in Canada.
Additional countries leading in instances of anti-Semitic online content included Germany (14 per cent), UK (4 per cent) and France (1.5 per cent).
68 per cent of all online anti-Semitic discourse (260,000 posts in total) originated in the United States. Over half of all posts were expressions of hatred towards Jews, a quarter of all posts used anti-Semitic imagery or symbols, 8 per cent called for physical violence against Jews, 6 per cent engaged in dehumanization of the Jewish people and 3 per cent denied the Holocaust or minimized its scope.
Even though physical violence against Jews declined worldwide, there was a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic comments recorded in public online forums and cyberspace.
In an effort to analyze the findings, WJC relied on the definition of anti-Semitism established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in which Canada has held membership since 2009. WJC was careful to separate anti-Zionism, which denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination, from anti-Semitism, which is defined as a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as a hatred towards Jews”, and which includes physical manifestations of anti-Semitism “directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”.
The report divided online anti-Semitism into five distinct categories: anti-Jewish hatred, calls to violence, dehumanization, Holocaust denial and use of anti-Semitic symbols and imagery.
Of the 382,000 anti-Semitic posts monitored online in 2016, 158,000 included hate speech against Jews, 31,000 included calls to violence, 14,000 engaged in Holocaust denial and 25,000 dehumanized Jews. 154,000 posts included anti-Semitic symbols or imagery. The most commonly used symbols were swastikas, praise for Hitler and the Nazi regime, and the meme “Gas the Jews”.
By comparison, over 3.3 million posts expressed hatred towards Israel, Israelis or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounted for 80 per cent of all online anti-Semitic content, with Twitter being by far the most popular platform (63 per cent), followed by blogs (16 per cent), Instagram (12 per cent), Facebook (11 per cent) and YouTube (2 per cent).
An annual audit conducted by B’nai Brith Canada found that there was a 26 per cent increase in anti-Semitism in Canada, making 2016 the worst year on record since 1982. While there were fewer incidents of vandalism, there was a marked increase in the rise of social media-based cases of anti-Semitism, including several high profile instances of Holocaust denial.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]