A new report on digitally-driven hate shows real world impact outside of social media, including Chicago communities.
Researchers say law enforcement is a partner in the work, adding that the pandemic fueled the growth of hate, especially online, and they’re calling on social media companies to do their part to stop it.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Director of Global Social Action.
“The frontline today in the marketplace of ideas is social media,” Cooper said.
Cooper says hate and antisemitism are out of control on those apps.
“We need the companies like Facebook but especially Tik Tok, especially Twitter and others to do a much better job at degrading the marketing capabilities of bigots, racists and antisemites,” Cooper said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center spent the past year studying incidents of antisemitism – detailing its findings in its annual digital terrorism and hate report. Some examples of the spread of antisemitism – appear in Russia’s month-old war on Ukraine – and the pandemic.
“A lot of Covid conspiracies claiming that this is another Holocaust,” Cooper said.
Advocates link the spread of hate online back to incidents in local communities. In the past month, offenders tossed antisemitic flyers onto lawns and sidewalks in Glenview, Park Ridge, and Niles.
“My community’s under attack. My district’s under attack,” State Rep. Joh Carroll said. “These people are sending out these hateful things and targeting the Jewish community.”
Leo Schmitz, Chief of Police at the Cook County Sheriff’s office, even appeared on one flyer targeting the Jewish community.
“Everybody stands together and people being picked on, targeted, we won’t stand for that here,” Schmitz said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is working on setting up meetings with the Sheriff’s Office and Chicago police to train law enforcement on how to investigate hate. Representatives say they also met with Skokie police this week.
Moving forward, advocates want parents to get involved as kids navigate the influences at their fingertips.
“There is no safe space on the internet,” Cooper said. “So we also have to be in a position to help our kids understand the difference between an idea you don’t like and hate or God forbid, worse.”