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March 31, 2022 11:32 am

Twitter Must Act on Pro-Putin Accounts’ Antisemitism

avatar by Simon Butler


Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin in Moscow, Russia March 2, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

As the violence resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Twitter accounts supporting Russian dictator Vladimir Putin have proliferated, spewing disinformation about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the country’s army to undermine their reputation. These accounts often tweet antisemitic text, images, and videos, which Twitter has been ineffective at mitigating. Given these users’ abusive behavior, the platform should be acting swiftly to suspend their accounts.

But Twitter has once again shown a lax attitude when it comes to mitigating violations of its own rules of conduct. Its poor record of deleting antisemitic tweets has been well documented. And now, with more and more pro-Putin accounts sowing discord, the site’s support team seems to be overwhelmed by the amount of invective.

Many Russia-promoting accounts tweet unfounded content relating to the Ukraine government’s purported links to Nazis, as justification for Putin’s atrocities. These same accounts frequently attack Zelensky’s Jewish heritage, too.

As white supremacists have adopted Putin’s cause, they disseminate Jew-hatred focusing on the Ukrainian president, with suggestions ranging from claims that he’s a Zionist stooge to messages blaming him and other Jews for the war. Many white supremacists also lionize Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, a Putin ally, who is lauded for his resistance to Israel, which these individuals want to see destroyed.

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The danger of such offensive, absurd invective is clear. Putin’s disinformation campaign, as ludicrous as it may seem to many, is capable of influencing thought, like all propaganda.

Misleading information also can cause panic, and elicit hasty decisions and confused messaging on social media. All of this can have disastrous effects on morale and public perception. Add antisemitism to the mix, and you have a clear and present danger to the Jewish people, especially considering the spate of terrorist attacks against Jews as of late.

Twitter must take charge on this issue. One option should be to augment its “report” feature, to include prompts allowing users to report tweets and profiles of accounts spreading disinformation about Ukraine and Russia. The company should also dedicate a portion of its support team to monitoring and addressing pro-Putin accounts and any antisemitism emanating from them. The accounts of Russian governmental organizations also should be suspended, as they continually disseminate lies about the invasion.

If Twitter addresses this content quickly and effectively, it could have a significant effect on public perception. If it doesn’t, the disinformation will get worse and potentially become harmful. As we’ve sadly seen, online hate can often have real-life consequences.

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. During his career, he has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek. His views and opinions are his own.

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