Understanding Social Media’s Anti-Semitism Problem

Having recently edited a book about the ways Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and other platforms spread hatred of Jews, Sabine von Mering and Monika Hübscher point to some of the features that make these websites especially pernicious:

Anti-Semitism may take on subtle forms such as in emojis. The emoji combination of a star of David and a rat resembles Nazi propaganda likening Jews to vermin. . . . Another form of anti-Semitism on social media is the anti-Semitic troll attack: users organize to disrupt online events by flooding them with messages that deny the Holocaust or spread conspiracy myths.

The scholars Gabi Weimann and Natalie Masri have studied TikTok. They found that kids and young adults are especially in danger of being exposed, often unwittingly, to anti-Semitism on the very popular and fast-growing platform, which already counts over 1 billion users worldwide. Some of the content that is posted combines clips of footage from Nazi Germany with new text belittling or making fun of the victims of the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitism is fueled by algorithms, which are programmed to register engagement. This ensures that the more engagement a post receives, the more users see it. Engagement includes all reactions such as likes and dislikes, shares, and comments, including [negative ones]. The problem is that reactions to posts also trigger rewarding dopamine hits in users. Because outrageous content creates the most engagement, users feel more encouraged to post hateful content.

However, even social-media users who post critical comments on hateful content don’t realize that because of the way algorithms work, they end up contributing to its spread.

Read more at Conversation

More about: Anti-Semitism, Internet, Social media

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security