Researchers say they have identified 36 key pro-Labour Twitter accounts being used to dismiss claims of antisemitism levelled against the party.
Their claim is based on a trawl of four years’ worth of tweets sent by the accounts that have pushed pro-Jeremy Corbyn and pro-Labour social media messages under Twitter hashtags such as #GTTO – Get The Tories Out.
Their report, “Engine of hate, the online networks behind the Labour party’s antisemitism crisis”, has been produced for the Community Service Trust, a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism.
It found that the accounts have tweeted content claiming that allegations of antisemitism in the party are “exaggerated, weaponised, invented or blown out of proportion, or that Labour and Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign relating to antisemitism”.
All were connected to Twitter networks that have used hashtag campaigns to attack MPs or public figures who have raised concerns about antisemitism and Labour. These include #BoycottRachelRiley, which targeted the Countdown presenter who has spoken out on the issue, and #SackTomWatson, which focuses on the party’s deputy leader.
“This report points to a deeply troubling online culture where antisemitic narratives have been allowed to take root,” Watson said.
“I hope this intelligence is shared with the investigators at Labour HQ so that they can explain to the dominant faction that control our party’s national executive how a small group of prolific social media users can influence our internal discussions if they are not called out or dealt with swiftly.”
The tweets were examined by a data analysis firm, Signify, that found some of the accounts had changed their position during the four years. A third had themselves tweeted antisemitic content. Nine were deleted between the research for the report and its publication.
One popular pro-Corbyn account, @SocialistVoice, has more than 66,000 followers on Twitter. The account holder, Scott Nelson, was expelled from Labour for a series of tweets including one that displayed an image of an Israeli flag peeling away to reveal a swastika, something for which he later apologised.
Another account, @otivar55, has accused Labour moderates of being controlled by the Israeli embassy. A third, @WarmongerHodges, has labelled Riley “unhinged” and “deranged” for criticising Corbyn.
“These are Labour’s social media cheerleaders,” said a CST spokesman. “Our report reveals how they set the tone and drive the vitriol on social media, attacking anyone who criticises the party’s appalling failure to deal with its antisemitism problem.”
Joe Glasman, head of political and government investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, described the report as disturbing, yet unsurprising.
“Prominent Labour party figures and rank-and-file members and supporters have long been denying the antisemitism crisis in Labour by claiming that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign. Labour’s outriders on social media have been fuelling this and meting out appalling abuse to those who stand up against antisemitism.”
A number of key Twitter accounts run by Labour activists and supporters – some of which are significantly more influential than those identified in the report – have used social media to successfully challenge antisemitism.
In addition, several of those behind accounts that have tweeted offensive comments have apologised for their actions and helped educate others on the threat of antisemitism.
“A small number of accounts are identified, some of which are not Labour members or supporters, and others have been expelled or suspended,” a party spokeswoman said.
“The analysis does not look at pro-Labour social media as a whole, and therefore does not include the main Labour-supporting accounts that actively call out such bigotry. We stand in solidarity with Jewish communities, and are committed to rooting out antisemitism from our party and wider society.”