Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate speech proliferates on the internet

On October 7, the day Hamas attacked Israel, the hashtag #HitlerWasRight appeared on X, formerly known as Twitter. Over the next month, more than 46,000 posts used the hashtag, often alongside expressions calling for violence against Jews.

At the same time, use of the hashtag #DeathtoMuslims also skyrocketed by X and was shared tens of miles of times, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate speech has increased on the Internet since the conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out. The increase has been much larger than what academics and researchers who monitor social media say they have seen before, represented by millions of posts, often explicitly violent, on X, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Anti-Semitic content increased more than 919 percent on X and 28 percent on Facebook in the month since Oct. 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group. Anti-Muslim hate speech in

On fringe platforms like 4chan, Gab and BitChute, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content increased nearly 500 percent in the 48 hours after Oct. 7, according to the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, a nonprofit organization that provides monitoring expressions of hate and extremism. Furthermore, the rise has been global, as anti-Semitic posts have also been widely shared on state-backed social media platforms in China.

According to researchers who study social media, the onslaught has been driven both by the deep-seated emotions stirred by the violent act and by extremists seeking to advance their own agendas. According to messages reviewed by the Times, far-right online messaging groups have discussed the opportunity to indoctrinate far-left activists in anti-Semitism. Russia, Iraq and Iran have also spread anti-Semitic messages along with disinformation about the war.

“Hatemongers have taken the opportunity to hijack social media platforms to spread their intolerance and mobilize real violence against Jews and Muslims, sowing even more pain in the world,” said Imran Ahmed, director of the Center to Counter Digital Hate. , which monitors social media for hate speech.

This online discourse has created a climate of fear and intimidation that may have influenced tense confrontations and violence in the real world, warned the researchers, who say it is difficult to prove causality. In the United States, Europe and Canada, authorities have documented numerous acts of violence against Jews, Muslims and their places of worship in recent weeks.

Some of the anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim messages have been shared hundreds of miles and received the same number of likes, even though they appear to violate the rules of social media platforms, many of which prohibit incitement. hate.

Content has been more prominent on X, according to the Anti-Defamation League and other researchers. In an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League of 162,958 posts on X and 15,476 posts on Facebook between September 30 and October 13, the increase in anti-Semitic content on Nearly two million posts with the hashtag #IsraeliNewNazis appeared on

More than 46,000 posts with the hashtag #HitlerWasRight were also discovered last month on X, according to Memetica, a digital research company. In previous months, the tag appeared fewer than 5,000 times a month. Two other hashtags (#DeathToJews and #DeathToJews) appeared more than 51,000 times last month, up from 2,000 the previous month.

The hashtag #LevelGaza appeared almost 3,000 times on X in the week after the October 7 attacks, up from about a dozen in September, according to Memetica. There were also thousands of posts on the platform with the hashtags #MuslimPig and #KillMuslims.

Other sites, such as TikTok and Facebook, have also seen an increase in hate speech, but they removed the content that was reported, according to the researchers. The hate speech that remained on these sites was often more veiled, such as the trend on TikTok to use “Austrian painter” as a code for Adolf Hitler.

A TikTok spokesperson stated that the “Austrian painter” videos violated the app’s policies and that videos with that label were removed after the Times brought them to the company’s attention. Between October 7 and 13, he added, TikTok removed 730,000 videos for violating hate speech rules.

X did not respond to request for comment. Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, referred to a blog post of hers about how the company enforces its anti-hate speech policies.

Messaging apps like Telegram have also been used to sow hate amid the conflict. On October 7, a Hamas-linked Telegram channel shared an image of a paraglider descending with a Palestinian flag and the words “I stand with Palestine.” The image was a reference to Hamas assassins who used paragliders to enter the Nova music festival in Israel, where more than 260 people died in the October 7 attacks.

Over the course of 24 hours, the image was shared thousands of times on X, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, according to ActiveFence, a cybersecurity company that advises social media platforms. Under some of the posts on Facebook and Instagram were comments such as: “They should have killed more” and “Kill more Jews.”

On October 9, a group called NatSoc Florida had created a t-shirt with the image, according to ActiveFence. The image soon spread on 4chan and later appeared in variations featuring Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been appropriated by white supremacists.

The meme spread quickly by organizations that were positioned to embrace anti-Semitic or racist causes, including those not directly involved in the Israel-Gaza conflict, said Noam Schwartz, CEO of ActiveFence.

“The meme is very very good,” he said. “It’s something terrible, but it’s recognizable, like an icon.”

Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.

Recently, on several far-right channels on Telegram and 4chan, some users have talked about the war as an opportunity to spread anti-Semitic sentiments among people who are generally at ideological opposites. One Telegram channel included instructions for far-right users who espouse anti-Semitism to post compassionate messages about the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza in order to attract left-wing activists.

“Once they got them there, you blame the Jews,” one person wrote.

Adi Cohen, Memetica’s chief operating officer, said the rise in anti-Semitic messages reflected a convergence of goals by both far-right and far-left activists.

“Some of them explicitly say that this is an opportunity to gloat and celebrate the murder of Jews on the Internet,” he declared. “They are trying to attract audiences to their content, and this is a time of enormous growth for them.”

Sheera Frenkel is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area who covers the impact of technology on everyday life, focusing on social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp. More by Sheera Frenkel

Steven Lee Myers He covers misinformation issues for The New York Times. He has worked in Washington, Moscow, Baghdad and Beijing, where he contributed to articles that won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2021. He is also the author of The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. More by Steven Lee Myers

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