You Too Can Fight Online Hate

May 24, 2021

ADL’s Center on Extremism reported an increase in online antisemitism in the United States since the most recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas.

Messages praising Hitler and promoting tropes about Jews controlling finance and media have been found across multiple social media platforms. For example, more than 17,000 tweets used variations of the phrase “Hitler was right” between May 7 and May 14, 2021.

Online harassment is a disturbingly common experience; overall, 41% of Americans have encountered it over the past year. It is no different for Jews. One in seven (14%) experienced some form of harassment and over one in ten (11%) have been severely harassed such as threats of physical violence because of their religion.

If you are the victim of online antisemitic abuse, you are far from alone and you do have recourse. ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide is a compilation of many companies’ reporting processes and policies around hate.

Depending on the outcome you are seeking, you can:

  • Document the harassment by taking screenshots and saving web addresses.
  • Report the harassment to the platform. Include as much information as possible in a single report; don’t forget to mention the historical context of the harassment. Save any case numbers, claim numbers or correspondence you receive from the platform.
  • Try to stop the harassment through blocking and muting users and disengaging from the conversation. Block and mute buttons are usually hidden to the right of the post within a grey arrow, three dots or three lines. You may have an impulse to engage, but those interactions usually go poorly and prolong the issue.
  • If you feel that you are in danger, call 911 and/or file a report with the FBI Cyber Incident Reporting.

Every platform is different. While we list general best practices for reporting hate online, you may have to look for specific functions or information on each platform separately.

Most online platforms like Twitter or Facebook have built-in mechanisms that allow users to report offensive content or harassment. Reporting mechanisms can usually be found in the three dots, three lines or small arrows that indicate a drop-down menu. The dots, lines, and arrow all indicate that more functions are hidden within. Use the reporting mechanism to report as many pieces of related, hateful content as the platform allows. For example, Twitter allows you to report up to five tweets at once and TikTok recently rolled out a function that allows you to flag up to 100 comments.

If there is no way to report a post through a platform's system, look for the platform’s contact information and email them directly.

All platforms have a terms of service (TOS) agreement. Most TOS claim that they do not tolerate hate speech or harassment on their platforms, and you should feel free to ask the company to enforce its TOS.

It’s useful to understand how the reporting process works from the platform’s point of view. Most complaints are handled by a mix of human reviewers and automated moderators. Harassment is often contextual and coded, making it hard for a computer to detect and for human reviewers to recognize. Many reviewers miss the significance of a post because they do not understand the cultural relevance or context of hate speech. When you report offensive content, explain why or how it is offensive. Do not assume the reviewer will understand the post in the same way you do, even if it seems obvious.

We know it is emotionally difficult and time-consuming to document harassment. However, putting in the time and effort to take screenshots and save all the content helps when reporting the harassment to platforms, tech companies and law enforcement. Think of this as gathering evidence. Even if the harassment you experience seems obvious and pervasive to you, you will still need to prove that to other parties. The more information you have, the easier it is to demonstrate what you’ve been through. If you are being bombarded with offensive content, ask friends or family members to help you go through and compile the material.

Report the harassment to the platforms before you contact ADL, schools or employers, because you will need the documentation and case numbers for reference. It also helps to show that you have taken the initiative to address the problem before asking for support. If you have reported hate to a platform and received a notification that your report does not violate its terms of service, you can report to ADL for escalation.