New York, NY, April 26, 2022… ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today released new data showing that in 2021, New York maintained its lead in total reported antisemitic incidents across the United States. The 416 incidents documented by ADL represented a 24% increase relative to incidents reported in 2020, when ADL recorded 336 incidents in the state, and accounted for an astounding 15% of the total reported antisemitic incidents across the country. Included in the data were 51 incidents of antisemitic assault – the highest number of antisemitic assaults ever recorded by ADL in New York – representing a staggering 325% increase relative to the 12 assaults recorded in 2020 and a significant 46% increase relative to the 35 assaults recorded in 2019, and accounting for 57% of antisemitic assaults recorded nationwide. In addition, ADL saw notable increases in incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and incidents involving swastika symbols in New York last year. Taken together, these incidents increased by 20% in 2021, from 153 in 2020 to 183 in 2021. Nationally, reported antisemitic incidents in 2021 reached an all-time high of 2,717 incidents, a 34% increase in incidents since 2020, and a 29% increase in incidents since 2019.
“The alarming uptick in antisemitic incidents in our state should be deeply concerning to all – Jews and those outside of the Jewish community,” said Scott Richman, Regional Director, ADL New York/New Jersey. “The fact that these incidents included an unprecedented number of vicious assaults – frequently targeting visibly Jewish individuals on the streets of New York, including young children, is incredibly disturbing. The message that this data is sending us is clear: antisemitism, like other forms of hate, is not going away, and we must proactively work together to protect our community by combating antisemitic statements and behavior before they lead to even more violence. In order to achieve a more compassionate, inclusive and safe New York and fight the normalization of hate, we must recommit ourselves to working with government, educational institutions, intergroup partners and law enforcement in collaborative ways.”
Since 1979, ADL has documented antisemitism through its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents.
In 2021, ADL’s Audit revealed the following in New York State:
- 183 incidents of harassment
- 182 incidents of vandalism
- 161 incidents involving swastikas; and
- 51 incidents of assault, the highest number of reported antisemitic assaults in New York State on record.
Of note was a sharp increase in reported incidents targeting Jewish institutions – an increase of 41%, from 44 incidents in 2020 to 62 in 2021. Of the 62 incidents, 22 incidents were acts of vandalism (an increase of 38% relative to the 16 incidents recorded in 2020), and 32 were incidents of harassment (an increase of 14% relative to the 28 incidents recorded in 2020).
Jewish institutions, including synagogues, temples, Jewish schools, Jewish museums, Jewish day camps, and Jewish Community Centers in 11 different counties were targets of either antisemitic harassment or vandalism, with 12 incidents occurring over Zoom and 7 incidents involving the use or display of a Nazi swastika. Seven incidents were physical assaults, and 3 involved bomb threats.
Of the 416 antisemitic incidents reported in New York State in 2021, over half, 215 incidents, occurred in public areas, 62 occurred in Jewish institutions, 39 took place in non-Jewish K-12 institutions, and 39 occurred in business establishments. Thirty-nine percent of all reported incidents involved the display of a Nazi swastika, which has served as the most significant and notorious of hate symbols of antisemitism and white supremacy for a very sizeable proportion of the world. The majority of total reported incidents took place during Q2 (April, May, June), with many events in May coinciding with the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Incidents recorded during Q2 in particular increased 120% – from 64 incidents reported in Q2 of 2020 to 141 incidents reported in Q2 of 2021.
Of the total number of antisemitic incidents recorded across New York State, 63% took place in the five boroughs of New York City. Of the 260 antisemitic incidents documented in New York City, 106 were incidents of vandalism and 90 were incidents of harassment. Forty-eight were incidents of assault, meaning that 94% of the 51 total reported antisemitic assaults in New York State took place in New York City.
Reported antisemitic incidents in the five boroughs increased by 144% in the Bronx and by 33% in Manhattan and Queens, and decreased by 7% in Brooklyn and 48% in Staten Island. Reported antisemitic incidents also increased on Long Island and in Westchester and Rockland Counties, by 23%, 28%, and 100% respectively.
Antisemitic incidents by area:
- Manhattan: 109
- Brooklyn: 84
- Queens: 32
- Bronx: 22
- Staten Island: 13
- Long Island: 69 [Nassau: 32; Suffolk: 37]
- Westchester: 23
- Rockland: 8
- Upstate: 54
During 2021, ADL tracked or responded to antisemitic incidents in 33 counties of New York State, an increase of 43% as compared to the 23 counties with reported antisemitic incidents in 2020.
Of the alarming 51 total antisemitic assaults that were reported in New York State in 2021, over half (34) took place in Brooklyn, which continues to be a hotspot for antisemitic activity. Twelve additional assaults took place in Manhattan. The majority of assaults were recorded during Q2 and Q4 of 2021, with 2 reported assaults in Q1, 18 reported assaults in Q2, 10 reported assaults in Q3, and 21 reported assaults in Q4.
Though the shocking 325% increase in assaults since 2020 may partially be due to the relaxation of strict public health guidelines put in place in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported assaults still increased significantly (by 46%) relative to 2019 – when ADL documented 35 assaults. Fourteen of the 51 assaults (27%) took place in the months of May and June, during and immediately following the escalation of violence in Israel in May of 2021.
Many of the antisemitic assaults recorded in 2021 were brutal in nature and included instances where antisemitic statements were yelled while victims were shoved, beaten, choked, chased, threatened or struck with knives, cars, fireworks, or other objects. In one incident in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a visibly Jewish man was shot at with a BB gun while walking down a sidewalk. At least 8 of the antisemitic assaults included victims who were children. Six of the incidents involved the victims’ hats, and wigs or yarmulkes (traditional religious head coverings) being knocked off or stolen.
INCIDENTS TARGETING ORTHODOX JEWS
Incidents targeting Orthodox Jews throughout New York State increased at an alarming rate, with New York City, particularly Brooklyn, serving as the epicenter. Incidents ranged from swastika graffiti and other forms of vandalism, to antisemitic slurs and insults targeting Jewish people, with many culminating in physical attacks.
In one instance, a knife-wielding individual in Manhattan attacked a Hasidic family of three, injuring both the parents and their 1-year-old child. In another attack at a Jewish summer camp in upstate New York, an individual yelled antisemitic expletives and threw fireworks from a passing vehicle at a group of Jewish teenagers. During a single weekend in November, a group of teenagers assaulted multiple Jewish victims, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, slapping, punching and throwing them to the ground in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Also in November, a man approached a visibly Jewish woman, said “you people are disgusting,” and threw an unknown liquid substance in her face. Furthermore, in another instance at a public hearing in Rockland County, one speaker alluded to Orthodox Jews and said, “and if I run one of them over…of course I’m going to back over them again.” His comments were later denounced by several town officials.
ISRAEL & ZIONISM RELATED INCIDENTS
Of the 416 antisemitic incidents recorded in New York State in 2021, 45, or 11%, included explicit references to Israel or Zionism. Over half of these incidents, 53%, were documented during the month of May, when there was a significant uptick in incidents that coincided with the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Of the 59 incidents recorded in May of 2021 in New York State, 24, or 41%, were related to Israel and/or Zionism. These 59 incidents represented a stark, 181% increase relative to the 21 total incidents reported in May of 2020. The 59 incidents also represented a notable 74% increase relative to the average number of antisemitic incidents reported in New York during the month of May over the last 5 years [34 incidents]. Incidents related to Israel and Zionism documented in 2021 included instances where:
- Perpetrators made statements that were critical of Israel while targeting victims on the basis of their Jewish identity and, in some cases, threatened to physically harm them; and
- Perpetrators chased, beat, choked and threw fireworks at visibly Jewish victims while making statements that were related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Israel killed my children, I’m going to kill you,” “F*cking Zionists,” “F*ck Jews Free Palestine,” and “Die, Zionist.”
Physical assaults related to Israel or Zionism included incidents where a man wearing an IDF sweatshirt was punched and called a “dirty Jew” when he refused to remove his sweatshirt, a man was beaten and choked by a group who demanded he say, “Free Palestine,” and a visibly Jewish child’s arm was shaken while a man yelled at the child, asking why the child and his friends were “killing kids in Gaza.”
A total of 39 antisemitic incidents in New York in 2021 were recorded in K-12 schools (excluding Jewish schools). This number represented a 105% increase relative to the 19 incidents recorded in 2020 (likely due in part to the suspension of in-person classes during the pandemic), and a 10% decrease relative to the 43 incidents recorded in 2019. Notwithstanding this decrease relative to 2019, antisemitic incidents in K-12 schools appear to have generally returned to pre-pandemic levels, which is a continuation of a disturbing trend of antisemitic incidents increasingly affecting youth.
The vast majority of reported incidents in this category, 28, involved acts of vandalism, which was nearly double the 15 incidents recorded in 2020. Acts of harassment, at 9, represented a 125% increase relative to the 4 recorded in 2020 and a 29% increase relative to the 7 recorded in 2019.
Fifteen antisemitic incidents were recorded on college and university campuses in New York in 2021 – the same number recorded in 2020.
- Harassment: 10 incidents
- Vandalism: 3 incidents
- Assaults: 1 incident
Of note, however, was the increase in incidents of harassment on college campuses last year – from 2 incidents in 2020 to 10 incidents in 2021. These incidents included 3 Zoombombings and incidents of verbal harassment targeting visibly Jewish students.
There were three incidents of vandalism on college campuses in the New York area in 2021. This included incidents such as a swastika being drawn on an academic building on NYU’s campus. There was one recorded incident of assault in 2021.
In 2021, 62 antisemitic incidents in New York were reported as having taken place in Jewish institutions – representing a 41% increase relative to the 44 incidents reported in 2020. Within this category, reported acts of antisemitic vandalism in particular increased by 38%, with 22 reported incidents of vandalism in 2021 compared to 16 in 2020.
Of the 22 incidents targeting Jewish institutions that were documented in the Bronx in 2021, 5 involved the arrest of an individual in connection with the vandalism of several synagogues in Riverdale, an enclave of the Bronx that is home to a vibrant Jewish community.
Incidents that took place at Jewish institutions in New York in 2021 included:
- The assault of a Jewish man standing outside a synagogue by a person who yelled antisemitic slurs including, “f*cking Jews”;
- The targeting of a group of children attending a Jewish camp by an individual who drove by and threw a firecracker at the group while repeatedly yelling “f*ck Jews”;
- Vandalism at a synagogue by a man who broke in, threw two Torahs on the ground and stole Torahs and Torah crowns from the building; and
- The Zoombombing of 12 synagogues’ virtual religious services and classes with antisemitic comments and imagery.
In 2021, private residences were by no means immune from antisemitic incidents. Though the 35 incidents recorded in New York represented a 26% decrease relative to the 47 incidents recorded in 2020, the incidents in 2021 were extremely troublesome and included the use of swastikas to damage property and evoke fear, the tearing of a mezuzah from a Jewish resident’s doorpost, and the harassment of Jewish neighbors with antisemitic comments. In one particularly concerning incident that took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a Jewish family’s home was shot at with a BB gun.
Last year, 39 antisemitic incidents were documented as having taken place at New York business establishments, an increase of 5% relative to the 37 incidents recorded in 2020. Reported incidents included bomb threats and threatening phone calls harassing Jewish or Israeli businesses, the use of swastikas and other forms of hateful vandalism, and business proprietors and other employees engaging in antisemitic rhetoric aimed at other employees or customers. In one instance, a Jewish employee was called a “f*cking Jew” by their supervisor while at their place of employment. In an email exchange with a Jewish customer, a company representative wrote, “Why are you acting like a Jew?” There were also multiple reported incidents where confrontations became physical, including:
- An individual threw furniture, yelled at patrons, and punched a Jewish person in the head at a Kosher pizza restaurant;
- Two men punched and kicked another man outside of a nightclub while yelling, “F*cking Jews! Jews shouldn’t exist!”;
- Two men threatened a teen outside of a gas station with a knife and made anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic statements; and
- An individual threw a stick at a Jewish victim and made antisemitic statements at a business establishment in Manhattan.
White supremacist groups continued to maintain an active presence in New York in 2021, using propaganda to communicate their hateful messages more broadly and recruit new members. In 2021, ADL documented 212 distribution incidents in New York State. This represented a 45% decrease relative to the 308 incidents recorded in the state in 2020. Of these, 20 incidents involved propaganda that contained overtly antisemitic statements or imagery – though the potential for all types of white supremacist propaganda to provoke fear and anxiety in Jewish communities should not be discounted. In 2021, 8 of the 20 antisemitic propaganda distributions had connections to one group, the New Jersey European Heritage Association, a New Jersey-based white supremacist group that espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance under the guise of “saving” white European peoples from purported imminent extinction. Four were connected to Folkish Resistance Movement, formerly known as Folksfront, a virulently racist and antisemitic group that is the most active neo-Nazi group on the West Coast and maintains close alliances with many other hate groups.
Underreporting continues to be a challenge in many communities, as victims of bias crimes and antisemitic incidents – particularly those in marginalized communities – face significant barriers to reporting in the first instance. Last year, despite a 93% increase in reporting north of Rockland and in Westchester County, ADL received reports from only 33 of 62 counties across the state. Considering that New York is home to the largest Jewish population in the country, this data is concerning, and we urge the public to be vigilant in reporting incidents to ADL, Law Enforcement and Civilian agencies around the state.
At the same time, we know that there is significant underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI, particularly where reporting remains voluntary by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, in 2020 (the most recent year for which FBI hate crime data is available), just 14% of participating agencies in New York reported one or more hate crimes to the FBI. ADL continues to work with elected officials, law enforcement leaders and community members across New York to tackle these problems head-on.
The ADL Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs, as well as vandalism and assault. Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the Audit provides a regular snapshot of one specific aspect of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported. This information assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.
The Audit offers a snapshot of one of the ways American Jews encounter antisemitism, but a full understanding of antisemitism in the U.S. requires other forms of analysis as well, including public opinion polling, assessments of online antisemitism and examinations of extremist activity, all of which ADL offers in other reports, such as ADL Global 100, Online Hate and Harassment: The American Experience, Survey on Jewish Americans’ Experiences with Antisemitism, Murder and Extremism, and the ADL Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews.
How ADL is Responding
The 2021 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents documents alarmingly high levels of antisemitism in the United States which require a concerted whole-of-government, whole-of-society response. Regarding potential actions in the policy arena in particular, ADL urges government officials to:
1. Speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate.
Public officials and civic leaders — from the President, to governors, attorneys general, mayors, other civic leaders, and law enforcement authorities — must use their bully pulpits to speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate and extremism. Regardless of its origins – from the far left to the far right and anywhere in between – leaders must call out antisemitism, including anti-Zionist antisemitism, and rally their communities to action.
2. Fund protections for communal institutions.
Federal, state, and local authorities should provide additional funding for security enhancements for at-risk houses of worship, schools, community centers, and other non-profit institutions. At a time of increased attention to extremism and hate-motivated violence, the federal government and states should significantly increase support for the NonProfit Security Grant program funding and institutional security training and outreach. The Non-Profit Security Grant Program (NSGP) provides non-profits with the capacity to increase their defense against these threats, including physical security and cybersecurity capacity and coordination. Congress must continue to grow to fully fund these grants to ensure that communities can address persistent and growing threats. Additionally, the federal government should invest in the Justice Department’s Community Relations Services to help build trust, engage communities, and support victims. CRS has a unique and important role to play in complementing the Justice Department’s law enforcement activities, particularly when those activities involve members of vulnerable and marginalized communities. CRS is charged with pursuing justice and reconciliation throughout all the States and territories, by engaging crime victims, government agencies, civil rights groups and community leaders in healing and conflict resolution. CRS concentrates on developing mutual understanding in communities most challenged by tension and helps them develop local capacity and tools to prevent hate crimes from reoccurring.
3. Promote education on hate crimes for law enforcement officials.
While hate crimes are only one type of incident cataloged by the Audit – albeit one of the most egregious – law enforcement’s awareness of such attacks, and its reporting of them, is woefully lacking. The FBI’s most recent release of annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) data for 2020 revealed a continuing trend of increasing hate crimes being reported in the U.S. under the federal government’s voluntary reporting regime, even as fewer law enforcement agencies provided data to the FBI.
When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community, and leaves people feeling vulnerable and afraid. That is the nature of a hate crime — it is intended and has the effect of terrorizing and impacting a larger community that shares certain of the identity characteristics that marked the individual target and motivated the attack. Hate crimes are message crimes. Governmental leadership is indispensable to the critical task of improving effectiveness at tracking, mitigating the harms caused by and ultimately, preventing destructive bias-motivated aggression.
Governments should provide law enforcement officials with the tools and guidance they need to prevent and effectively identify, investigate and respond to hate crimes, while providing trauma-informed comfort and assistance to individual victims and community members. Over time the manifestations of particular antisemitic conspiracies and hate can evolve, and it’s important that law enforcement has access to ongoing education and expertise in order to track such evolutions. Law enforcement also should be educated in community policing best practices. When hate crimes do occur, law enforcement officials must be prepared to take prompt, strong action to investigate every incident – and to hold perpetrators accountable to the full extent of the law. At the same time, depending upon the nature of the crime, the remorse and willingness of a perpetrator to be educated and otherwise make amends, as well as the willingness of the targets/victims, restorative justice options may also be valuable. Additionally, law enforcement agencies should use data from the FBI, Department of Education and NGOs such ADL and Stop AAPI Hate to anticipate where hate incidents are most likely to occur and to proactively contact community members and institutions to strengthen relationships and collaboration.
4. Improve hate crime data collection.
Fighting hate crimes is a critical task, especially now that antisemitism, anti-Asian-American violence, threats to HBCUs, and other forms of racism and bigotry are at unusually high levels. The FBI’s annual hate crimes report for 2020 reported a 13 percent increase in hate crimes from the previous year and represented the highest total in almost two decades. A total of 8,263 hate crime incidents were reported, an increase from 7,314 in 2019. Hate crimes targeting the Jewish community made up nearly 55 percent of all religion-based hate crimes in 2020. As disturbing as these statistics are, they only tell us about a small fraction of all hate crimes. Many law enforcement agencies do not participate meaningfully in reporting pursuant to the Hate Crime Statistics Act. In 2020, for the third straight year, the number of law enforcement agencies providing data on hate crimes to the FBI declined. Furthermore, even among agencies that are in theory participating in the program, far too many report zero hate crimes, raising concerns about the accuracy of the numbers. In 2020, 10 cities with a population over 100,000 did not report and 59 cities with a population over 100,000 reported zero hate crimes. Large gaps in data about hate-motivated attacks, along with factors like mistrust between affected communities and police and disincentives to prosecute hate crimes, limit the effectiveness of civil society and law enforcement actors who are working to eliminate hate crime. Significant changes and supportive efforts, up to and including reporting mandates, are necessary to involve all of society in the critical task of combating hate.
Congress took a significant step forward in improving our nation’s response to hate crimes by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in 2021, which incorporated the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act. The new law includes crucial measures to expedite an Attorney General review of hate crimes nationwide and requires the promulgation of guidance to law enforcement agencies regarding best practices for establishing hate crime reporting tools and collecting data on these crimes. It also created new grant programs to provide much-needed resources to establish state-run hate crime hotlines and improve hate crime reporting to the FBI. The Department of Justice has already made strong progress in implementing provisions of this law; however, full implementation of all of the important new grant programs requires that Congress appropriate funds for them. ADL urges Congress to fully appropriate the implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System, and to make other critical investments to create state-run hate crime reporting hotlines, and to conduct training and develop protocols for identifying, analyzing, investigating, and reporting hate crimes.
But passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, followed by this year’s Emmet Till Antilynching Act making lynching a federal hate crime, should not represent the end of Congressional efforts to address hate crimes. There remains significant work to do to implement a comprehensive and data-informed approach to this devastating problem. One key weakness remaining in the current hate crime data collection program is that it relies on voluntary participation by state and local law enforcement. Congress and the Department of Justice must evaluate options for making hate crime reporting mandatory by all law enforcement agencies, such as by leveraging federal criminal justice grants provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.
5. Promote anti-bias, bullying prevention, civics education, and Holocaust and genocide education programs in elementary and secondary schools.
Eliminating antisemitism and other forms of bigotry requires government as well as civil society leadership to promote anti-hate and civics education programs in our nation’s schools. Especially in these divided and polarized times, every elementary and secondary school should promote an inclusive school climate and activities that celebrate our nation’s diversity. One critical aspect of that effort is the need to teach the universal lessons of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide. Studies have shown that this can provide an effective means of combating identity-based hate and bigotry. Every state should mandate teaching about the Holocaust. Also, the Department of Education should ensure that guidance prompts local and state school systems to report school-based antisemitic and other biasmotivated incidents, including those perpetrated by someone other than a teacher or student, through the Civil Rights Data Collection program.
6. Protect Democracy
The incidents described in this Audit, and the antisemitism that motivates them, are also corrosive of our democracy. Like other forms of identity-based hatred, antisemitic acts intimidate entire communities, and further divide and polarize our polity. Antisemitism dusts off and raises up old tropes and conspiracy theories about Jews as the cause of societal problems and then substitutes acts of hatred and discrimination against a dehumanized group rather than seeking to address problems with real solutions. This is a tried and true tool of extremists, who elevate malevolent conspiracies to erode faith in democratic processes and institutions in favor of more authoritarian and often racially, ethnically or religiously homogeneous regimes. ADL has inaugurated a new organizational priority of Protecting Democracy in response to the threat identity-based hatred and extremism poses to our democratic institutions, processes and norms.
7. Fight Extremism.
Whether the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Chabad in Poway, or any number of domestic terrorist incidents in which antisemitism plays a role — such as the January 6th attack on the Capitol — there is an acute threat of antisemitic terrorism and myriad forms of terrorism that integrate antisemitism across ideologies. We must protect the Jewish community from these threats and counter the movements that produce them.
ADL has created the PROTECT Plan – a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to mitigate the threat of domestic terrorism while protecting civil rights and liberties. The strategic framework includes suggestions related to prioritizing the domestic terrorism threat — which is overwhelmingly from rightwing extremists and in particular white supremacists at this time — providing resources according to that threat, providing law enforcement and the military with the tools needed to address extremists within their ranks, ensure that social media companies are more accountable for dangerous content, and tackle the transnational dimensions of this threat head-on. Together, these steps would have a significant impact on preventing and countering antisemitism by extremists.
8. Address Online Antisemitism.
The government has an important role in reducing online hate, harassment, and extremism fueled by antisemitism. Eighty percent of Americans agree there should be more police training and resources to help people with online hate and harassment. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that laws should be strengthened to hold perpetrators of online hate accountable for their conduct (81%).
ADL has created the REPAIR Plan – a comprehensive approach to decrease online hate, harassment, and extremism, including that fueled by antisemitism, and push it back to the fringes of the digital world. In order to comprehensively repair our internet ecosystem, this strategic plan encourages policymakers to:
- Reorient and Resource Government — to ensure a coordinated, whole of government approach to combat online hate, harassment, and extremism at home and abroad;
- Expose Platform Manipulation — through transparency mandates and independent research; Put People Over Profit — by disrupting big tech’s business model, including banning surveillance advertising;
- Advocate for Targets of Online Hate and Harassment — by supporting targets of doxing, swatting, cyberharassment and other forms of digital abuse;
- Interrupt Disinformation — tackle online hate and extremism to restore trust in our institutions and reverse democratic backsliding;
- Regulate Platforms — while respecting free speech and promoting competition, advance thoughtful and targeted legislation to end near total immunity for social media companies.
Regulate Platforms: For Technology Platforms
Our findings from the 2021 Online Hate and Harassment Report show that the vast majority of the American public — across demographics, political ideology and experience with online harassment — want both government and private technology companies to take more action against online hate and harassment.
There is a consistent demand by users (81% of respondents) for technology companies to do more to counter online hate and harassment. An overwhelming majority of respondents also agree with recommendations for increased user control of their online space (78%), improved tools for reporting or flagging hateful content (78%), increased transparency (77%), and accountability in the form of independent reports (69%).
1. Ensure strong policies against hate
In 2022, there is no excuse for any technology company that operates a digital social platform to not have public-facing community guidelines or standards that comprehensively address hateful content and harassing behavior, and clearly define consequences for violations. While some platforms have comprehensive policies at present, not all do. Platforms that do not have robust public-facing policies show indifference to addressing the harms suffered by vulnerable and marginalized communities.
2. Enforce policies equitably and at scale
Technology companies must regularly evaluate how product features and policy enforcement on their social media platforms fuel discrimination, bias and hate and make product/policy improvements based on these evaluations. When something goes wrong on a major social media platform, tech companies blame scale. Millions, even billions, of pieces of content can be uploaded worldwide, shared, viewed and commented upon by millions of viewers in a matter of seconds. This massive scale serves as the justification for “mistakes” in content moderation, even if those mistakes result in violence and death. But scale is not the primary problem— defective policies, bad products and subpar enforcement are. When it comes to enforcement, platforms too often miss something, intentionally refrain from applying the rules for certain users (like elected officials) or have biased algorithms and human moderators who do not equitably apply community guidelines. Companies should also create and maintain diverse teams to mitigate bias when designing consumer products and services, drafting policies, and making content moderation decisions.
3. Design to reduce the influence and impact of hate by centering the experience of communities targeted by hate
Technology companies should put people over profit by redesigning their social media platforms and adjusting their algorithms to reduce the impact of hate and harassment. Currently, most platform algorithms are designed to maximize user engagement to keep users logged on for as long as possible to generate advertising revenue. Too often, those algorithms recommend inflammatory content. To address this, tech companies should center the experiences of communities most often targeted by hate in the creation and improvement of their platforms. ADL has modeled this in the development of our Online Hate Index antisemitism machine learning classifier. If a non-profit can create an effective tool to detect online antisemitism by centering the perspective and experience of Jewish volunteers in its development, then technology companies with their vast resources have no excuse not to center the most impacted communities in the technologies they develop.
4. Expand tools and services for targets of harassment
Given the prevalence of online hate and harassment, technology companies should ensure their social media platforms offer far more services and tools that are both easily accessed and effective for individuals facing or fearing an online attack. Social media platforms should provide effective, expeditious resources and redress for victims of hate and harassment. For example, users should be allowed to flag multiple pieces of content within one report instead of creating a new report for each piece of content. They should be able to block multiple perpetrators of online harassment at once instead of undergoing the laborious process of blocking them individually. More specific suggestions on anti-hate by design principles that can be implemented by tech companies as they design or redesign their platforms can be found in ADL’s Social Pattern Library.
5. Improve transparency and increase oversight
Technology companies must produce regular transparency reports and submit to regularly scheduled external, independent audits so that the public knows the extent of hate and harassment on their platforms. Transparency reports must be expanded to include far more than the small amount of important data about online hate they now include. They should include data from user-generated, identity-based reporting. For example, if users report they were targeted because they were Jewish, that can then be aggregated to become a subjective measure of the scale and nature of antisemitic content on a platform. This metric would be useful to researchers and practitioners developing solutions to these problems. Platforms should also provide transparency regarding non-removal related content moderation actions they take. For example, if a platform decides not to remove a category of antisemitic or hateful content but instead de-amplify the degree to which content in that category can be shared or engaged with, they should report on the number of those actions taken alongside removals. In addition to transparency about policies and content moderation, companies can increase transparency related to their products. At present, technology companies have little to no transparency in terms of how they build, improve and fix the products embedded into their platforms to address hate and harassment. In addition to transparency reports, technology companies should allow third-party audits of their work on content moderation on their platforms. Audits would also allow the public to verify that the company followed through on its stated actions and to assess the effectiveness of company efforts across time.
Antisemitic incidents are an all-too-common reality in our communities. Here are three ways you can take action against antisemitism and fight hate for good with ADL.
Report an Antisemitic, Bias or Discriminatory Incident
We can’t do this alone. Because of thousands of people like you who have reported incidents, we have been able to help communities across the country by reporting on trends, educating lawmakers and law enforcement and advocating for stronger protections from incidents and crimes. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, please report it using our incident form. When you hear of an incident happening to a loved one, friend or community member, share with them that they can report the incident to ADL.
Learn more about fighting antisemitism. ADL has a variety of resources [anchor link to main Take Action resources section] to help you learn more about the root causes of antisemitism and hate and share that information with others.
Join us for Never Is Now | November 10, 2022 | NYC
In the midst of increasing incidents of hate across the world, now is the time to unite and act. Join us at ADL’s Never Is Now, the world’s largest annual summit on antisemitism and hate. Tackle crucial conversations, engage with extraordinary experts, leaders and visionaries and be inspired to take immediate action that will create lasting change in your community and beyond. Add your voice to the conversation this November at Never Is Now at the Javits Center in New York City. Register today!
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