Dedicated to creating a better world, Ryan Kavanaugh has donated to a number of organizations that work hard to make life better, more just, and freer for people in the United States and other countries around the world. One of the major organizations that Ryan Kavanaugh supports is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonprofit that was originally created to end anti-Semitism, but now also plays an important role in defending religious freedom and other civil rights.
The United States is a nation founded on the concept of religious freedom, but hatred and misunderstanding continues to plague the country. This fact has become much more evident during this year’s campaign for the presidency. Recently, an ADL Task Force released a report detailing a number of instances of anti-Semitic harassment experienced by journalists on the social media platform Twitter. The widespread issue mainly affected about 800 reporters and involved a surprising number of accounts.
The ADL Task Force and Its Twitter Research
The ADL Task Force on Harassment and Journalism was established in June 2016 after reports of a dramatic rise in online anti-Semitic abuse. Members of the task force include deans of journalism schools, hate speech experts, and journalists. Research found that much of the harassment is directly related to rhetoric from the current presidential campaign.
To create the report, the ADL task force identified several keywords and keyword combinations to pinpoint instances of anti-Semitic vitriol on social media. Using this metric, a total of 2.6 million tweets containing this language were identified between August 2015 and July 2016. These tweets reached an estimated 10 billion individuals, which problematically reinforces anti-Semitic language as normal. The prevalence of racial slurs and anti-Israel sentiments were particularly disturbing.
To get a better sense of change over time, the ADL team chose to narrow the 2.6 million tweets down to those directed at journalists located in the United States. By looking at this subset of more than 19,200 anti-Semitic tweets, the task force saw a sharp rise between January 2016 and July 2016, in direct correlation with an increase in presidential campaigning. The report also notes that many anti-Semitic tweets largely went under the radar because they did not include the specific keywords the organization focused on, meaning that the total number of anti-Semitic tweets is likely much higher.
Specific Findings of the ADL Task Force
More than two-thirds of the tweets with anti-Semitic sentiment directed at American journalists came from the same 1,600 Twitter accounts, out of the 313 million total existing Twitter users. Individuals in this group largely identified themselves with the “alt-right” and some had loose connections to white supremacists. The words that appeared most frequently in the bios for these accounts were “nationalist,” “white,” and “conservative.” These attackers also seemingly have ties to each other, with many of the tweets coming from connected online communities.
According to the research, the majority of the online abuse was directed at a relatively small cohort of around 800 journalists. More than 80 percent of the tweets examined were directed at just 10 of these individuals, who include Jake Tapper and Sally Kohn of CNN, Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and Yair Rosenberg of Tablet, as well as the columnist Ben Shapiro.
Twitter has played an important role in ending anti-Semitic abuse. More than 20 percent of the accounts responsible for the attacks on these journalists were deactivated by the company. However, the rest of the offending accounts remain active. ADL has submitted a list of the account names to Twitter to ask that they be similarly deactivated. In the meantime, the Center on Extremism at ADL will continue to monitor instances of harassment on Twitter and has called upon all users to report hateful tweets with the hashtag #exposethehate.
ADL’s Long History in Combatting Cyberhate
ADL has been working to reduce cyberhate since 1985, when it began tracking and exposing hate online using a team of expert linguists, investigators, and analysts. Over the decades, the organization has maintained a leading role in the adoption of technologies to monitor and disrupt extremists who spread hatred via the Internet. Because of its work in social media, ADL was one of the first groups to expose terrorists’ use of Twitter to recruit new members, and the organization continues to work closely with law enforcement to monitor trends and prevent violence in our communities.
Two years ago, ADL teamed with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, and Twitter to create a set of best practices in countering online hatred. This document has become a template for fighting cyberhate around the world. The ADL Center on Extremism also maintains an online database of hate symbols. This year, two new symbols were added to the database, so that monitors around the world can accurately identify and combat expressions of bigotry and hate.
You can learn more about ADL’s work to end hatred and anti-Semitism by checking out its website, ADL.org, where you can also find the recent task force report and gain access to tools for fighting violence on social media.