ADL Forms Task Force to Address Anti-Semitic and Racist Harassment of Journalists on Social Media

Deans of Columbia and Northwestern Universities’ Journalism Schools are Inaugural Members

New York, NY, June 1, 2016 … In the wake of a series of disturbing incidents where journalists covering the 2016 presidential campaign have been targeted with anti-Semitic harassment and even death threats on social media, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced today it is convening a Task Force on Hate Speech and Journalism. Building on ADL’s decades of experience in monitoring and exposing hate and hate groups, as well as its central role in working with the Internet industry to address online hate, the Task Force will seek insights from a group of outside experts and representatives of journalism, law enforcement, academia, Silicon Valley, and nongovernmental organizations whose advice and counsel will help ADL to do the following:

  • Assess the scope and source of anti-Semitic, racist and other harassment of journalists, commentators, and others on social media;
  • Determine whether and how this harassment is having an impact on the electorate or if it has a chilling effect on free speech;
  • Propose solutions and/or countermeasures that can prevent journalists becoming targets for hate speech and harassment on social media in the future.

“Journalists are used to being criticized, but this election cycle we repeatedly have seen criticism quickly cross the line into ugly anti-Semitic and other hateful attacks including death threats,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “ADL has been monitoring, studying, and speaking out against anti-Semitism, racism, and other hate for years. We hope to bring our experience to this latest manifestation of it so we can take steps to address this challenge even as we strive to ensure that we do not jeopardize free speech and a free press.”

The Task Force will build on and complement work done by ADL’s Center on Extremism, which has worked closely with social media and internet providers for more than two decades in responding to anti-Semitism and online hatred.  

The Task Force work quickly and expects to issue a report by the end of the summer. To date, advisors on the Task Force include:

  • Danielle Citron, Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and expert on online harassment
  • Steve Coll, Dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
  • Todd Gitlin, Professor and Chair, Ph.D. Program, Columbia Journalism School
  • Brad Hamm, Dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
  • Shawn Henry, retired Executive Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Bethany Mandel, New York Post and Jewish Daily Forward contributor
  • Leon Wieseltier, Contributing Editor at The Atlantic and Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at The Brookings Institution
    • Other participants to be announced as added

In recent weeks, ADL has heard from a number of journalists from across the ideological spectrum who have experienced anti-Semitic and other harassment. Among those journalists who have reported receiving harassing and hate-filled anti-Semitic messages on social media during the 2016 campaign season are CNN’s Jake Tapper, Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times.

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