SAN FRANCISCO – The season’s heated political inflammatory rhetoric involving Muslims and immigrants is having its toll on social media websites, and twitter on its top, where Donald Trump supporters have added to a massive rise in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Trump has “mainstreamed Islamophobia in our nation,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told USA Today on Sunday, October 23.
“He’s given permission to all those who held anti-Muslim views, or who might have formed anti-Muslim views recently, to go public with them quite proudly.
“Whereas before maybe they would have been reluctant to be so open about their bigrotry, now you have a major American public figure saying that’s perfectly OK. In fact it’s somehow patriotic.”
Hooper warned that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and policy positions have made many groups feel unsafe on Twitter.
Over the past months, the Republican presidential hopeful has suggested banning Muslims from entering the US, as he has said “Islam hates us,” suggested the surveillance of mosques, and has talked about “profiling” of Muslims as a response to terrorism.
The inflammatory rhetoric was not only having its toll on Muslims only.
Hadas Gold, a Politico media writer, has been receiving threats on Twitter.
Gold, a Jew, received one image which superimposed a yellow star of David on her shirt and a bloody bullet hole in her forehead. Another photoshopped her face on a corpse in a concentration camp oven.
The message that came with the photos: “Don’t mess with our boy Trump, or you will be first in line for the camp.”
Gold says these incidents have become increasingly common “the more we wrote about Trump, and the more we wrote about his rhetoric.”
A report this week from The Anti-Defamation League documented the rise in anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists who cover the Republican presidential candidate.
Words that appear frequently in the profiles of these Twitter accounts: Trump, nationalist, conservative, white.
“The report is representative of the bigotry and hatred that we are seeing play out on a broader scale,” said Oren Segal, director of ADL’s Center on Extremism and an author of the report.
As people don’t have to use their real names on Twitter, they can attack people of color, women, Muslims and other groups with relatively little risk.
“This is only a fraction of what’s happening online right now as a result of the legitimacy various extremist ideologies have been given in this campaign season,” Ryan Lenz, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, said of the ADL report.
“We have seen a massive rise of hate speech.”
For years Twitter has faced sharp criticism for not aggressively enough policing abuse and harassment on its service.
Twitter says its rules “prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
Irfan Chaudhry, a criminology instructor at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada, who has researched racism on Twitter, says these disturbing attacks typically grow in numbers and intensity during a presidential election.
The main difference is the number of people on social media in 2016 compared to their number in 2012.
“During the last presidential election, a lot of people were still trying to get a handle on what social media is,” Chaudhry said.
“Now they know what it is, and now we are able to utilize it in more data-driven and analytical ways that give us these insights we weren’t aware of before.”
Leslie Miley, a former Twitter employee, agreed.
“They just know how to use it — not just to communicate with each other and organize, but also to refine their message and push their agenda. It’s scary how effective they are,” Miley said.
Over the past months, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been accused of fueling anti-Islamic sentiment, pointedly calling for Muslims to be prevented from entering the United States in December last year.
The rhetoric has made a surge in anti-Muslim attacks.
In a 2015 hate crime statistics report, 16.1 percent of 1,140 religious hate crime victims were Muslim, up from previous years, despite the fact that overall hate crime numbers among other religious groups were declining, the FBI said.