Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Social Media

Social Media
As Dr. Rich explained, conspiracy theories such as the ones discussed here, as well as additional expressions of antisemitism and other forms of hate, are becoming more widespread. This is particularly due to the growth of the Internet and social media, where hateful and conspiratorial content can take on an aura of authenticity and is able to enter the private spheres of billions. If we look at the social media and try to figure out if there’s a scope of hatred or antisemitism, I think you have to conclude that there is no scope in a sense that it’s all over in almost any form that you can consider.
Having researched the Internet, hate on the Internet, for close to twenty years or over twenty years, I can tell you that there is no group on the internet that is not threatened and does not have manifestations of hate aiming and targeting it. At the same time there is almost no group that does not have haters or bigots, and people are prejudiced from within their own midst as well. So it really is an equal opportunity offender or provides the opportunity, the opening for equal opportunity offenders.
What you do have though I think is that by virtue of its being anonymous and by virtue of the culture that we’ve created, it removes inhibitions that had formerly been in place in society in general and in human interaction in particular. The Internet allows, social media allows, people to just go on immediately provide a very emotional setting, an emotional response, or release whatever thought they’re thinking and instead of filtering it, instead of thinking about it, it comes out in immediate scope and it also created an environment where any kind of statement is legitimized. You can say anything. You can feel anything. You can pretend to be any kind of authority.
It is really a sort of ‘verbal Wild West’, a rhetorical ‘Wild West’ in the sense that there is no editorial function there and, while many people claim and think that that is the virtue and the beauty of the Internet, the downside is that it opens the door to this kind of expressions. It’s almost been thirty years, since the very beginning of Internet use, that we have seen the presence of antisemitism online - Holocaust denial – and it has grown disproportionately in that time. Considering the size of the Jewish population, the use by Neo-Nazis and antisemites has been incredible.
In their own words they’ve described it as “more powerful than a sword”, “better than a march” because they can, instead of physically having to distribute material for example and exposing themselves to scorn or even risk, they could do it behind an electronic wall. It empowers them by creating the feeling of a global organization. They’re no longer isolated in a basement in some garage, or you know some dingy apartment someplace. But now they’re linked to comrades all over the world. They provided merchandising opportunities where material from T-shirts to music, to books were sold.
They were able to target specific audiences - to have pages directed at women, at prisoners in prisons, at children, at academics or intellectuals, at political, at nationalities or ethnic groups. So all that then really exploded further, when social media became prevalent and you didn’t have to go through a website or you know Internet2.O. And you created an opportunity for people to vent however as they will and which fed a networking of this kind of approach, and we’re seeing that and the results of that in many cases in today’s world. We can see, then, that the various social networks active online today serve as major platforms through which hateful and abusive content is transmitted and spread.
This negative function of social media is one which many hadn’t foreseen in the early days of these networks. Ten years ago in my world at least social media were considered with a very positive image. They were connected with some social movements that were protesting for good ideas. They were connected with some revolution for democracy in the Arab and Muslim World in many countries. They were connected with Occupy Wall Street Indignados. I mean there was a lot of sympathy and it was the idea that social media were connected with universalism. But today it’s very contrary. Most of the people that work on social media say it is not universalism. It’s the contrary.
Groups communicate in their social media and social media are a deep element in communicating hate, violence and negative images of Jews or other points. So if you want to understand post-truth, you want to understand fake news; if you want to understand the contrary of universal values, just look at the way social media acts. So I consider that today this is true. Social media have a devastating effect because if I am a professor and if I say Auschwitz existed, it’s something, or if I am a good journalist, or if I am a serious political man. But people, when they don’t trust politicians, professors, journalists, what do they do? They find by themselves their truth on Internet and on the social media.
And so they will be happy to join the social media that will give them what they want to be given. And here begins the problem. So really I consider that today social media because they don’t open the world to those people that participate in the social media; because on the contrary they make .. they build a wall - and these people are inside - they have a very devastating role including in antisemitism.

Mr. Mark Weitzman, Prof. Michel Wieviorka

The rise of the Internet and social media brought with it positive and negative outcomes. On the one hand, it enabled individuals and groups to connect on a global level and to have instant access to information and knowledge. However it also allowed for the spread and dissemination of extremely negative and hostile content, including antisemitism.

What place do the Internet and social media hold in the spread of hateful content, including antisemitism, today?


  • Awan, Imran, ed., Islamophobia in Cyberspace: Hate Crimes Go Viral (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • Foxman, Abraham H. and Christopher Wolf, eds., Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

  • Keipi, Teo, Matti Näsi, Atte Oksanen and Pekka Räsänen, eds., Online Hate and Harmful Content: Cross-National Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2017).

  • Klein, Adam, Fanaticism, Racism, and Rage Online: Corrupting the Digital Sphere (Cham : Springer International Publishing, 2017).

  • Townsend, Peter, The Dark Side of Technology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

  • Vickery, Jacqueline Ryan and Tracy Everbach, eds., Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology, and Harassment (Cham : Springer International Publishing, 2018).

  • Weitzman, Mark, “The Internet is Our Sword: Aspects of Online Antisemitism,” in edited by John K. Roth and Elisabeth Maxwell-Meynard, eds., Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocide (New York, Palgrave 2001), pp. 925 – 991.

  • Wetzel, Juliane, “Soft Denial in Different Political and Social Areas on the Web,” in Anthony McElligott and Jeffrey Herf, eds., Antisemitism Before and Since the Holocaust: Altered Contexts and Recent Perspectives (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 305 – 331.

  • Wieviorka, Michel, The Lure of Anti-Semitism: Hatred of Jews in Present-Day France (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

  • Wodak, Ruth, “Introductory Remarks from ‘Hate Speech’ to ‘Hate Tweets’,” in Mojca Pajnik and Birgit Sauer, eds., Populism and the Web: Communicative Practices of Parties and Movements in Europe (New York : Routledge, 2018), pp. xvii – xxiii.

This article is from the free online

Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now