In Germany, antisemitism on social media can be linked to offline violence

On 8 September 2020, the 10th day of the Halle trial, several Jewish survivors gave their remarkable testimonies to the horrific crime. The crime took place on 9…

On 8 September 2020, the 10th day of the Halle trial, several Jewish survivors gave their remarkable testimonies to the horrific crime. The crime took place on 9 October 2019 on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Stephan B. killed two people and injured many more in a terror attack in Halle, Germany. Among the testimonies, one survivor pointed out German domestic intelligence and police’s incapability to deal with social media and the gaming community that surrounded the attack.

Stephan B., so it appears, had radicalized himself online and had published several files that included a live stream on Twitch, and on the imageboard Meguca shortly before his attack. The documents that he uploaded show a worldview of ‘extermination antisemitism’ (Vernichtungsantisemitismus) interconnected with misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, and incitement. “Go in and kill everything,” he wrote in bold letters.

Even though Stephan B. is a native German, he spoke mostly English during the live stream. He also wrote his documents in English. This attests to his connections to global radical online communities and the alt-right, with a particular receptivity for the gaming and manga community, rather than to traditional German right-wing extremist networks.

The global dissemination of hate by malicious actors with the help of social networks, and its potential effects offline is an issue that researchers on antisemitism have begun to pay attention to but research remains insufficient. Current examples from Germany show how urgently policymakers, lawmakers, and practitioners depend on such research to find appropriate restrictions and combat mechanisms to fight antisemitism on networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Already in 2008, Andre Oboler noted that, with the support of social media, antisemitism had reached a new quality. Today, antisemitism on social media can be found in all languages, is algorithm-driven, and can be weaponized in troll attacks or through social bots, for example. Indeed, antisemitic content can be disseminated on an unprecedented scale, cost-free, and in fun shapes like GIFs and memes or social media posts.


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