A convergence of hate: Jewish, female and public

04 02 19

“Our analysis shows that the two most mentioned MPs on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront since its inception more than a decade ago are Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger – this is not a coincidence,” said Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, former Google data specialist and author.

Seth was speaking at the Sara conference, which brought together politicians and NGOs together to address the abuse Jewish women face when in a public role.

The event was organised by the Antisemitism Policy Trust and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, following research showing Jewish women MPs faced 15% more online antisemitic abuse than their male counterparts.

Luciana Berger and Margaret Hodge both detailed the vile online abuse they face on a day to day basis as they went about their duties: a toxic mix of misogyny and antisemitism. Berger said she was not afraid of reporting the hate but that the process was arduous and taxing. “It can take a long time, you even have to face the perpetrators and it is not an easy thing to do,” she said.

“In both data and anecdote, the evidence is clear: in 2018, in the United Kingdom, Jewish women are increasingly coming under dual attack. Abused for being women and abused for being Jewish,” said UK prime minister Theresa May, at the Downing Street reception after the Sara conference.

Online convergence

The picture painted by prominent Jewish women is grim, with Facebook Head of Public Policy Rebecca Stimson admitting their algorithms were much more likely to pick up terrorism than online hate.

The hate these women face is complex, ranging from online harassment to doxxing – their address is shared online – and can lead to physical threats. The aim is not only to intimidate an individual but also to create a chilling effect for supporters and increase barriers to participation.

Stephens-Davidowitz has been examining data from Google searches and on websites like Stormfront for years. He explained the cross-pollination effect that could occur online, with people jumping from one community to another, such as joining an online Men’s Rights Activist group and ending up in a group claiming the Holocaust is a hoax.

The number of antisemitic comments on the 4chan site has increased every year since Stephens-Davidowitz’s team began the analysis. In 2015, there were 650,000 antisemitic comments on the message boards but this grew to 1.7 million in 2017. He also noticed a correlation with misogyny, the number also rising yearly.

Finding solutions

“The entire system is built so that the more shocking and controversial thing you say, the more likely you’ll get a response – the social media algorithms reward this,” said Polly Mackenzie, Director of Demos, a cross-party think-tank.

Seyi Akiwowo is head of Glitch, an organisation campaigning to end online abuse. She described how she was trolled relentlessly when a video of hers was put on Stormfront and her home address was revealed online. She said that although more research is needed to analyse the issue, intersectionality was vital. Akiwowo also called for an international online hate crime hub – “I’m not receiving vile abuse from London but from across the world”.

Unlearning mainstreamed antisemitism was reiterated several times with Laura Marks from Nisa Nashim, the Jewish Muslim women’s network, saying, “Often people don’t know what is antisemitism, why it makes us fearful or uncomfortable and it is important to explain.”

She added that going forwards, women needed to collaborate and amplify more moderate voices together. “Muslims and Jewish women are both hated, for different reasons, but the hate is the same, so we need to look at how we can work together,” she added.


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