By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — A Nov. 17 Southern Methodist University Zoom lecture will focus on how the internet became the new frontier for proliferating hate, what researchers know about this growing phenomenon, how it affects college campuses and what is being done about it.
“Online Antisemitism: The New Hate Frontier,” part of SMU’s Ann and Nate Levine Lecture Series in Jewish Studies, will feature scholars Jordan Kraemer, director of policy and research at the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society and Ayal Feinberg, assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Shira Lander, director of Jewish Studies at SMU, said the anonymity of digital communication, its global reach and its heightened ability for impersonation make it fertile ground for spreading antisemitic harassment and inciting real-world violence against Jews.
“Yet, the public accessibility of these online sites, chatrooms, blogs et al. afford researchers a body of data for analysis that can help us to better understand how and why antisemitism is currently experiencing a resurgence,” Lander said.
“Dr. Kraemer examines social media to understand what prompts individuals to participate in antisemitic online groups and the mechanisms for spreading hate digitally. Dr. Feinberg uses computers to understand the triggers for in-person antisemitic incidents, particularly those incidents that occur on college campuses,” she said.
Kraemer said her research focuses on targets of harassment rather than perpetrators.
“In my lecture, I’ll discuss my research on the harms of online harassment campaigns, specifically coordinated ‘networked harassment’ which takes place across multiple platforms,” she said.
She and a colleague, Danya Glabau of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, teamed up to interview 15 targets of online hate and harassment.
“We found that Jewish professionals, including journalists and businesspeople, are often targeted for ongoing harassment campaigns online, typically coordinated on far-right sites like 4chan and Breitbart, with detrimental effects,” she said.
Some targets installed home surveillance systems, some sought help from law enforcement, while others withdrew from public online spaces, she added.
“We additionally found that the same tactics were used to target non-Jewish victims, especially people of color and trans women,” she said. “We interviewed trans women streamers on Twitch, for example, who experienced virulent abuse, often laced with Nazi and antisemitic imagery such as swastikas. In another instance, a Latina professional was falsely accused of antisemitism at work by someone who objected to her views on Facebook.”
According to Kraemer, the overall effect of networked cyberhate was to drive Jews, women and people of color out of online spaces, with serious harm to their mental health, physical safety, professional reputation and ability to participate in public life online.
Kraemer said she will put these findings in the broader context of research conducted by ADL’s Center for Technology & Society, such as the annual Online Hate and Harassment survey.
She said her organization’s research shows that women, people of color and LGBTQ+ respondents, are disproportionately targeted for identity-based hate and harassment online.
Feinberg of Texas A&M Commerce, who is also chair of the junior faculty section of the Academic Engagement Network, a national organization dedicated to fighting hostility to Israel on college campuses, said his research examines the factors that surround antisemitic hate crimes and bias.
He said his presentation will focus on antisemitism at higher education institutions, a phenomenon he believes is real, with campuses reporting close to 2,000 antisemitic hate crimes in the last two decades.
Feinberg said his scholarship shows Jews are uniquely affected by hate crime at colleges and universities because they are targeted by perpetrators on the ideological left and right, with antisemitic attacks making up nearly 20 percent of all reported hate crimes occurring on campuses.
He said his research also discusses how Jewish visibility, anti-Israel student group activity and events like Israel Apartheid Week all dramatically increase the occurrence of reported antisemitic bias incidents.
Stacy Cushing, deputy director of ADL Texoma, which is co-sponsoring the event, said online hate and antisemitism is a growing problem.
“Along with Jordan Kraemer from ADL Center for Technology & Society sharing the groundbreaking work and her expertise on this topic, the ADL Texoma team will be sharing information on local incidents and online trends they are seeing in the region. Thank you to the Levine Lecture Series and SMU for hosting this important discussion.”
For more information or to register: https://bit.ly/3khYGso