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Friday, April 12, 2024

Online Antisemitism

Steven Lee Myers and Tiffany Hsu at NYT:

Jackson Hinkle has cultivated an online persona so incendiary that he has been kicked off YouTube, Twitch and Instagram.

He rages on undaunted, even energized. He produces a regular podcast on Rumble, a website popular with many prominent conservatives. He writes dozens of posts a day on X, where his following has surged to 2.5 million from 417,000 in the six months since Oct. 7 — the day Hamas fighters mounted their assault on Israel.

Along the way, he has employed false or misleading content, promoted manipulated images and made comments that watchdog organizations have denounced as antisemitic. He calls himself an American patriot even as he praises American adversaries, including Vladimir V. Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Two Israeli research companies that specialize in online threats, and that have focused on what they consider disinformation related to the war in Gaza, said they had identified coordinated and possibly state-sponsored networks of bots or inauthentic accounts that were amplifying Mr. Hinkle’s provocative brew of political views. China, Russia and other foreign actors are known to use such tactics to achieve their geopolitical goals — including efforts to influence this fall’s presidential election.
Mr. Hinkle has also benefited from changes by X’s owner, Elon Musk, including the cancellation of policies that once limited toxic content. With the addition of a premium subscription feature, he now charges certain followers $3 a month for what he calls “extra cool stuff,” including behind-the-scenes videos and “random thoughts.” X allows him to pocket up to 97 percent of the revenue — money that Mr. Hinkle has told subscribers helps him “continue exposing the Deep State.”

Imran Ahmed, the head of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a research organization, said Mr. Hinkle was part of “a sort of new cadre of people who exploit the algorithms’ insatiable desire for highly contentious content to benefit themselves economically.”
In a new report, the center documented a staggering rise in followers for 10 prominent accounts on X that spread antisemitic content since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.