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September 6, 2021 1:12 pm
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Instagram Users Unwittingly Fed Antisemitic Content, Says UK Nonprofit Report

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Users on Instagram are randomly exposed to antisemitic content often associated with anti-Israel attitudes and conspiracy theories, even when not searching for related terms on the platform, according to a report released by a charity that helps secure British Jewish groups.

“Antisemitism on Instagram is significantly associated with a trolling phenomenon on the platform. Some content is explicitly and coherently antisemitic, some links to related themes (such as conspiracy theories) and some uses antisemitic phrases alongside other offensive but seemingly random images and phrases,” the report found.

Published Monday by The Community Security Trust (CST) and the Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT), the report analyzed the relationship between antisemitism and conspiracy theories on Instagram and showed that users are exposed to such content independently of their “intentions and chosen search terms.”

“Conspiracy theories and antisemitism appear to overlap on Instagram,” it assessed. “One common feature of antisemitism identified on the platform is that it often appears in hashtags attached to a post that have no direct, or even indirect, relationship to that post’s content.”

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During a seven-week period between July and September, 2020, data was collected with the help of Cambridge-based charity The Woolf Institute by running a search using 27 different hashtags that typically accompany images posted by users. The hashtags contained words or phrases that were identified by APT, CST and other experts either to be antisemitic, or that may be associated frequently with antisemitism. Some hashtags were unambiguously antisemitic, for example #gasJews, while others included specifically anti-Israel or anti-Zionist messages found alongside antisemitic content, such as #israhell.

Analysis of the searches — which yielded 4,000 Instagram posts — showed that antisemitic hashtags, alongside those with demonstrable links to antisemitism, were viewed tens of thousands of times during the period assessed, generating thousands of likes. There were 27 million Instagram users in the UK as of June 2020.

Among the top ten most used hashtags were #thegoyimknow, #zionistagenda and #illuminati, often connected with conspiracy theories. Six out of 10 conspiracy theory hashtags had associations with others used in relation to antisemitism.

The report calls on Instagram to review “harmful conspiracy theories” on its platform linked to antisemitism and improve its community standards as a tool to act against hateful content. Specifically, it is recommended that the social media platform develops the “capability and resources to identify when anti-Israel or anti-Zionist language is associated with antisemitism or used as a way of expressing antisemitic sentiment.”

“Instagram requires better algorithmic filtering of antisemitic keywords linked to conspiracies and should work to improve its internal technology in this regard,” the document concluded.

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