Press Release

ADL Finds Hateful Content on Telegram Exceeds That on Facebook

Analysis also found sharp rise in anti-Black content as Black Lives Matter protests erupted in May 2020

New York, NY, October 21, 2020 ... ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today released a new study evaluating anti-Black and antisemitic content in public groups on Facebook and private channels on Telegram since the start of the year, finding a much larger proportion of references to hateful content on Telegram. Reviewing content since the start of 2020 through September, there was a significant uptick in anti-Black content at the same time as the Black Lives Matter protests swelled in response to George Floyd’s death.

“Whether in the more public spotlight or in the darker fringes of the internet, we see that hate flourishes and moves at an unprecedented rate,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “In this snapshot, we can see that vile rhetoric can be sparked by current events but we know that it also unfortunately can contribute to real-world violence as more and more people are inspired by conspiracy theories that target Black and Jewish Americans.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • Of the Telegram messages studied, 57 percent of the messages containing references to Jewish Americans included derogatory language, and 26 percent of the messages containing references to Black Americas included derogatory language.
  • One in every 81 messages sent to the Telegram channels were derogatory toward Black Americans, and about one in every 54 messages were derogatory toward Jewish Americans.
  • Of the Facebook page and public group posts studied, 7 percent of the messages containing references to Black Americans included derogatory language, and 9 percent of the messages containing references to Jewish Americans included derogatory language.
  • On Facebook, one in every 150 posts were hateful toward Black Americans, and more than one in every 300 posts were hateful toward Jewish Americans.

The most notable change across time was the spike in derogatory anti-Black posts in June 2020, following the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the country. On Facebook pages, the number of derogatory posts in our sample quadrupled and stayed consistently at that level until September 1, from around 20 posts per month to around 80. Telegram showed a similar increase in derogatory posts, at a larger scale.

In comparison, antisemitic content mostly did not show major changes over time except for a substantial increase in derogatory posts on both Facebook and Telegram during January 2020, possibly related to the impeachment of Donald Trump and the prominent positions occupied by some Jewish members of the Senate who supported conviction, which may have inflamed antisemitic conspiracy theorists.

“When we look at the global problem of hate and extremism online, it’s important to remember that each platform has different effects and different dangers,” Greenblatt said. “We hope these findings help point to ways to mitigate the harm online hate causes, both for individual users, particularly those from marginalized communities, and society as a whole.”

For the study, ADL’s Center for Technology and Society commissioned a study with Samuel C. Woolley, Director of the Propaganda Research Team at the Center for Media Engagement in the University of Texas at Austin and a former ADL Belfer Fellow, who in turn collaborated with Maggie Engler, a Senior Data Scientist at the Global Disinformation Index. This team of researchers collected 3,317 posts from 11 Facebook pages and 44,244 posts from 23 public Facebook groups, and 333,325 messages from 52 Telegram channels. The data was collected for the time period beginning January 1, 2020 and ending September 1, 2020. The report also includes recommendations for social media companies as well as civil society groups. The full report can be found here.

Building on ADL’s century of experience building a world without hate, the Center for Technology and Society (CTS) serves as a resource to tech platforms and develops proactive solutions to fight hate both online and offline. CTS works at the intersection of technology and civil rights through education, research and advocacy.