A Quantitative Approach to Understanding Online Antisemitism

by   Joel Finkelstein, et al.

A new wave of growing antisemitism, driven by fringe Web communities, is an increasingly worrying presence in the socio-political realm. The ubiquitous and global nature of the Web has provided tools used by these groups to spread their ideology to the rest of the Internet. Although the study of antisemitism and hate is not new, the scale and rate of change of online data has impacted the efficacy of traditional approaches to measure and understand this worrying trend. In this paper, we present a large-scale, quantitative study of online antisemitism. We collect hundreds of million comments and images from alt-right Web communities like 4chan's Politically Incorrect board (/pol/) and the Twitter clone, Gab. Using scientifically grounded methods, we quantify the escalation and spread of antisemitic memes and rhetoric across the Web. We find the frequency of antisemitic content greatly increases (in some cases more than doubling) after major political events such as the 2016 US Presidential Election and the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Furthermore, this antisemitism appears in tandem with sharp increases in white ethnic nationalist content on the same communities. We extract semantic embeddings from our corpus of posts and demonstrate how automated techniques can discover and categorize the use of antisemitic terminology. We additionally examine the prevalence and spread of the antisemitic "Happy Merchant" meme, and in particular how these fringe communities influence its propagation to more mainstream services like Twitter and Reddit. Taken together, our results provide a data-driven, quantitative framework for understanding online antisemitism. Our open and scientifically grounded methods serve as a framework to augment current qualitative efforts by anti-hate groups, providing new insights into the growth and spread of antisemitism online.


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