Social media fueling worldwide increase in hate crimes: report

CHICAGO — A leading international organization that tracks hate crimes released Thursday its annual report on digital terrorism and online hate.

The study found social media is fueling a drastic increase in hate-motivated attacks.

“We live in a world today where everything global is local, and every local incident goes viral,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of global social action agenda for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Cooper said recent deadly attacks at a New Zealand mosque, California synagogue and Sri Lankan churches are part of a worldwide trend. Reported hate crimes increased by 24 percent this year. African-Americans remain the No. 1 target of race-based hate crimes, while Jews are the No. 1 target of religious-based hate crimes.

Cooper said the trend is driven by social media — which gives hate speech new spaces of acceptance and, in turn, fuels real-life action.

“The bottom line in all of these attacks: Social media played a key role,” Cooper said.

He applauded Facebook’s recent move to ban fringe voices, like Chicago-based Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. But Cooper said social media giants like Facebook and Twitter must do a better job.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released its annual report cord, with no company graded better than a B- in tackling hate speech.

The signs of hate are seemingly everywhere, including Wrigley Field. In a recent incident at a Cubs game, a fan flashed a white nationalist hand gesture behind an African-American reporter. The Cubs investigated, and that fan was banned from the stadium.

Chicago police have a unit dedicated to investigating hate crimes, but said the Jussie Smollett case may deter legitimate victims from reporting crimes.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is asking parents to engage their kids about what they see online and to report to authorities anything that represents hate.

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