As 2016 draws to a close, the Anti-Defamation League is counting down the major milestones we accomplished this year in the fight against hate.
In the face of growing anti-Semitism in society and on social media, ADL made it an agency priority in 2016 to further its work in the fight against all manifestations of hate online.
Here are some of the notable highlights:
Jewish Journalists Aggressively Targeted on Social Media:
- In the wake of a series of disturbing incidents where journalists covering the 2016 presidential campaign were targeted with anti-Semitic harassment and even death threats on social media, ADL convened a “Task Force on Hate Speech and Journalism.” The Task Force was formed to seek insights from a group of outside experts and representatives of journalism, law enforcement, academia, Silicon Valley, and nongovernmental organizations. The group assessed the scope and source of anti-Semitic, racist and other harassment of journalists, commentators, and others on social media and held discussions to determine whether and how this harassment is having an impact on the electorate or if it has a chilling effect on free speech.
- ADL’s Task Force subsequently issued a broad set of recommendations which included 25 separate actions that industry, policymakers and the government, the legal community, journalists, and the public can take, including technical changes to make reporting hate speech and abuse easier for victims and witnesses; more concerted collaboration between social media and online platforms to stop the harassment; a government study to determine the full scope of cyberhate affecting society; and new laws to cover cyber threats and make illegal new types of online abuse.
- This step followed ADL’s four-month investigation into the harassment of journalists on Twitter, which concluded with an report detailed a troubling, year-long rise in anti-Semitic hate against reporters from all sides of the political spectrum during the presidential campaign. The report, the first of its kind, presented findings based on a broad set of keywords designed by ADL to capture anti-Semitic language on social media. Using this metric, a total of 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech were posted across Twitter between August 2015 and July 2016.
Taking the Fight Straight to Silicon Valley
- ADL took the fight one step closer to Silicon Valley and announced the hiring of Brittan Heller as its first Director of Technology and Society. In this new role, Heller, an expert in cyber harassment and hate speech, is building on ADL’s three decades of work tracking cyberhate and working in partnership with tech companies and law enforcement to reduce online anti-Semitism and bigotry and ensure justice and fair treatment to all in online environments.
“Best Practices” For Combating Hate Online
- During the inaugural South by Southwest (SXSW) Online Harassment Summit, ADL asked emerging Internet companies and social media platforms to endorse our “Best Practices” and join all those working to combat the growing hate and violence being incited online by terrorists, domestic extremists, and cyber bullies. At SXSX, ADL participated in a series of panels that focused on various manifestations of hate online, from cyberbullying, to the sale of offensive merchandise to hate speech on social media, and online extremist recruitment and propaganda.
Helping European Communities Tackle Cyberhate
- ADL expanded its “Cyber-Safety Action Guide,” a reporting mechanism for Internet users, to Europe and established a partnership with the European Jewish Congress and the European Union of Jewish Students to develop alternative language versions.
Hate Symbols and Internet Memes Flood the Web
- ADL added the triple parentheses – or stylized (((echo))) symbol, a gimmick used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to single out Jews on Twitter and other social media – to its “Hate on Display” online hate symbols database. Extremists were using the echo symbol to highlight the names of those perceived to be Jewish and singling them out for harassment both online and off.
- Just one month later, ADL identified “Pepe the Frog,” a cartoon character used by haters on social media to suggest racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted notions, as a hate symbol and added it to its hate symbols database.
- Shortly after Pepe was hijacked, ADL joined forces with Matt Furie, the Pepe artist, in an effort to take back the popular internet meme from racists and use the frog’s likeness as a force for good. Furie created a series of positive Pepe memes and messages, which ADL then promoted on social media with the hashtag #SavePepe and encouraged social media users to retweet and share positive images of the frog in an attempt to rehabilitate him and move his image out of the realm of hate speech.
Bringing Our Cyberhate Expertise to Latin & South America
- ADL experts also took their knowledge overseas and participated in the First Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism in Latin America. They offered their expertise on a number of critical issues, including combating the rising tide of anti-Semitism and best practices in tackling cyberhate. The forum, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, addressed anti-Semitism in Latin America with discussions focusing on education, legislation and interfaith dialogue.
Fighting hate online has never been more critical as terrorists, domestic hate groups and common cyberbullies are using the world wide web more than ever to motivate followers and fuel hate. For more than a century, ADL has led the charge in this arena and will continue the good fight in 2017.