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Anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists have spiked during the election

Rampant anti-Semitic tweeting targeting journalists has plagued the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League.

There have been 2.6 million tweets “containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech” from August 2015 to June 2016, the report said. Of those, more than 19,000 “overly anti-Semitic” tweets were directed to at least 800 journalists.

Written by the ADL’s Task Force on Harassment and Journalism, the report noted a jump in anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter around the time the presidential primary season ramped up.

ADL also said the attacks tended to come from Trump supporters, adding that “this does not imply that the Trump campaign supported or endorsed the anti-Semitic tweets, only that certain self-styled supporters sent these ugly messages.”

“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics,” ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement summarizing today’s report. “We are concerned about the impact of this hate on the ability of journalists to do their job and on free speech,” he said.

Greenblatt added that the organization hoped its report hastened efforts to address the “surge of hate” on social media platforms like Twitter.

“We have to identify it, which ADL has done with this report,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, said of the rise in anti-Semitic writing on social media.

“We clearly have issues we have to work through as a country because all of this hatred is coming to the surface, which has been hidden for many, many years now,” Hetfield said. Twitter policy prohibits hateful conduct toward any user on the basis of religious affiliation. However, the company disagreed with the specifics of ADL’s report.

Twitter has deactivated 21 percent of the offending accounts, the report said. ADL said it was giving Twitter a list of additional accounts that are still active and sending out anti-Semitic messages.

Twitter’s current policy prohibits hateful conduct toward any user on the basis of religious affiliation. However, the company also disagreed with the specifics of the report.

“We don’t believe these numbers are accurate, but we take the issue very seriously,” Twitter’s press office told the NewsHour in an email. “We have focused the past number of months specifically on this type of behavior and have policy and products aimed squarely at this to be shared in the coming weeks.”

This report comes a few months after more than two dozen Jewish community organizations co-signed an open letter denouncing racism, xenophobia and violence.

The letter was released after Donald Trump sent out an anti-Hillary Clinton tweet that superimposed a six-pointed star — resembling the Star of David — atop a pile of cash.

“The hate that is existing in social media right now is also the result of the rise of the ‘alt-right,’” said Ryan Lenz, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch editor.

Donald Trump is appealing to voters who reject mainstream conservative ideals. These members of the so-called “alt-right” have typically taken their frustrations to the internet, rather than to the polls. John Yang interviews the Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti and The Washington Post’s David Weigel about the alt-right’s “hierarchical” tendencies and potential impact on conservatism.

The ADL noted that two-thirds of the 1,600 accounts targeting journalists were “disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the ‘alt-right,’ a loosely connected group of extremists, some of whom are white supremacists.”

“The alt-right is a particularly internet-savvy, tech-savvy group of young, smart, aggressive white nationalists” who have taken advantage of the communication tools of the internet and the anonymity those tools provide.

“The rise of hate on the internet also comes out of the legitimacy that this campaign season has given young white nationalists and young neo-Nazis and racists,” Lenz added.

The report added that its findings does not mean that “conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism.”

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