Revealing how much more Twitter needs to do to contain hate speech on its platform, a new study showed that over four million anti-Semitic tweets were shared on the microblogging site in the past year, making the platform a “megaphone to harass Jews”. At least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending January 28, 2018, said the report by the Jewish civil rights group, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), on Monday. Those 4.2 million tweets were sent from an estimated three million Twitter handles, according to the study.
“This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “We hope this report will create a renewed sense of urgency among all social media providers that this problem is not going away and that they need to find innovative new ways to tamp down the spread of hatred online,” Greenblatt added.
For the study, the researchers evaluated thousands of possible anti-Semitic expressions on Twitter, including classic stereotypes, code words, symbols and conspiracy theories, and conducted a human review to scan for sarcasm or other non-anti-Semitic uses of such terms. “Our experts created a data set of 55,000 tweets which were manually reviewed for the presence of anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
The report, released at a conference in Washington, DC, showed that the number of anti-Semitic tweets fluctuated between a low of 36,800 the last week of July 2017 to a high of 181,700 in the first week of December 2017. The average number of anti-Semitic tweets per week was 81,400.
ADL, however, appreciated the efforts Twitter made over the past year in confronting the challenges of removing hate speech from its platform, such as removing verification badges for some white supremacists. “We’re pleased that Twitter has already taken significant steps to respond to this challenge,” Greenblatt said.
The report offers a series of specific and actionable policy recommendations for Twitter, including strict enforcement of a comprehensive Terms of Service that clearly prohibits hateful content. It added that Twitter should use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance efforts to flag content for review, while ensuring users have an effective filtering option to decrease the chances they will encounter hate speech.