UAB participates in study that shows online anti-Semitic comments on the rise

Anti-Semitic comments on the rise

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Eleven people were shot and killed inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday.

The accused shooter, Robert Bowers, is said to have threatened Jews on a social media site called Gab. UAB Computer Science Professor, Jeremy Blackburn says it’s not surprising the posts led to deadly action.

“If that’s where these people are spending all their time, they’re getting all their news--that’s the type of people they’re discussing things with,” Blackburn said. “Eventually that becomes a normal type of thought process and eventually rhetoric turns into reality.”

Blackburn is one of several researchers who tracked online anti-Semitic comments and memes for eighteen months on sites like Gab. He says hate speech in the US has spiked in that time, starting with the 2016 elections.

“First off, a bunch of people that normally would not have any way to communicate with each other, they’d be isolated--instead form these echo chamber like communities,” Blackburn says. “Then on top of that, they’re mostly anonymous so they’ll say whatever crazy stuff comes out of their mind.”

Blackburn says sharing or liking a hateful meme may seem innocent or funny but can ultimately have big implications. He says creators of social media sites have a responsibility in stopping it, but so do individuals.

“If you see one of your friend’s sharing this, call them out. It’s not a pleasant discussion to have, but it’s a lot more pleasant than the kind of stuff that happened this weekend,” Blackburn says.

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