Anti-Semitic trolls are creating an online list of Jewish people who are critical of white nationalism. Since its creation almost a month ago, it has become the fastest-growing alt-right group on the popular Telegram chat service.
The list is mostly made of archived tweets from individuals criticizing white supremacy, misogyny, and other types of bigotry. Each profile includes a tweet in which the person in question describes themselves as Jewish. The first post on the list singled out Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), but posters quickly moved to documenting far less prominent people that they believe are Jewish. The list includes many who are not public figures, or who have only modest profiles as rank-and-file activists, journalists, or social media figures. Around a dozen people have been added nearly every day.
Segal also noted with concern that the dates of the channel’s first posts suggest it was launched in late August. “As we get closer to the one year anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting and as we see Jewish institutions being targeted and attacks being targeted in this country, people should understand the danger of a list,” he said. “It’s never okay, but now we hope that there’s a stronger sense of why this list is problematic.”
The channel is a part of a broader trend of neo-nazis, white nationalists, and other alt-right groups flocking to Telegram as they get banned from other platforms. Others have taken to other platforms like Gab which bills itself as a free-speech haven. That site has become tightly associated with bigotry and white supremacy, making it less attractive to members of the alt-right who want to gain an air of legitimacy on mainstream platforms.
The Daily Dot recently reported on how scores of neo-Nazi groups have set up public groups on Telegram praising white nationalist shooters like Dylan Roof and the Christchurch, Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, and the New Zealand Mosque shooter. Users in the groups also often write posts urging further violence against minorities.
The chat has been the fastest-growing alt-right public Telegram channel since the start of September, according to metrics compiled by a separate far-right Telegram group tracking similar channels. That channel’s data suggests the group has picked up over 1,500 new members in the last two weeks, averaging roughly 100 new subscriptions a day—a rate of growth three times that of the next channel. It now has 2,400 subscribers. Because the channel is publicly accessible, is likely being viewed by many more people.
Telegram is known for its deep commitment to free speech and hands-off approach to private conversations. While Telegram’s terms of service are brief, they do acknowledge a difference between chats involving small groups of people and public groups. The channel could be in violation of the platform’s rule against “promot[ing] violence on publicly viewable Telegram channels.” While the channel’s creator has written that they’re not encouraging violence against anyone on the list, a likely neo-Nazi creating a list of Jewish people is arguably inherently violent. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.