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Twitter Gave Free Rein for Jack Posobiec To Publish Antisemitic Hate and Disinformation

Twitter enabled OANN correspondent Jack Posobiec’s rise by giving him space to promote hate and mislead the public without facing consequences, Hatewatch has determined in a comprehensive review of his account history.

The social media giant publishes a public facing list of its rules, which says it forbids promoting hate and violent extremism. Posobiec targeted Jewish journalists with antisemitic hate, as Hatewatch detailed in a story about his links to the white supremacist movement. Twitter also maintains rules about authenticity. Posobiec presented himself on Twitter as being “fmr CBS News” for more than half a year during 2016 and 2017, but CBS News told Hatewatch he never worked for them. Despite this, Twitter verified Posobiec’s account in April 2017, giving him an appearance of authority on their website. One of the first things he did with the authority Twitter granted him was share an apparently baseless story, “SHOCK: London Police Chief Appears to Give Tips How to Assassinate Trump During Visit.”

Posobiec tweets at a staggering rate. Archives show he tweeted about 93,000 times as of June 30, 2018, not including posts he deleted. By June 30, 2020, he had tweeted just under 152,000 times, or around 60,000 times in two years. Data from the Pew Research Center suggests that a “prolific user” of Twitter publishes 138 tweets per month. Posobiec tweeted or retweeted content 2,500 times per month over the last two years, or around 18 times more than what Pew depicted as a prolific Twitter user. Posobiec’s efforts to flood the platform with content have resulted in a growing audience. He is on pace to attain one million Twitter followers by the end of 2020.

Jack Posobiec
Jack Posobiec speaks at a rally outside the White House in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2017. (Photo via REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Posobiec’s Twitter account has endured in the face of public outcry over #Pizzagate and other stunts. He told Richard Spencer over text message in November 2016 that his account had been temporarily suspended at some point in the past, possibly when operating his first handle, @AngryGOTFan, but he did not explain how it happened. Hatewatch was unable to find any instance of Posobiec’s account being even temporarily suspended since he first became publicly associated with President Trump.

Twitter responded to Hatewatch’s request for comment to this investigation by noting that Posobiec is not “currently” in violation of their rules. Twitter did not respond to a prompt from Hatewatch inquiring whether “currently” referred to Twitter posts that Posobiec has since deleted. Either way, Twitter’s response appears to suggest a misunderstanding of how Posobiec has weaponized their platform, publishing hateful or deceptive material, allowing it to spread and then removing it to avoid facing repercussions. Twitter also ignores the degree to which Posobiec continues to spread hate and disinformation on their platform. The Daily Beast published a story on June 3 suggesting that Posobiec pushed a hoax about people planting pipe bombs in Washington, D.C., amid antiracist demonstrations across the country. Posobiec also used Twitter to appear to promote white vigilantism in response to civil unrest during the same demonstrations, as Hatewatch demonstrates below.

Posobiec responded to a request for comment on this investigation by calling Hatewatch’s findings “disinformation” and claiming to have called the FBI to file a complaint.

Jewish groups respond to Posobiec’s Twitter antisemitism

Hatewatch detailed in part one of this series that in 2016, Posobiec marked CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, a group of journalists at a Peter Thiel press conference, and the showrunners for HBO’s "Game of Thrones" with the antisemitic “echoes” meme, which was popularized by white supremacists. During the 2016 election, white supremacists and other antisemites singled out Jews for harassment by putting three sets of parentheses around their names.

Hatewatch asked three Jewish human rights groups for a response to Posobiec’s statements on social media targeting Jewish reporters.

Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote back:

The use of the echo as a symbol of hate really took off in 2016, when antisemites began using it on Twitter to "identify" and harass Jewish journalists, or journalists they believed to be Jewish. This brought more attention to the practice, which quickly evolved into the online equivalent of tagging an individual with antisemitic graffiti. Antisemites use the echo symbol around an individual's name as a signal to likeminded individuals. In response to this tactic and the accompanying harassment, ADL formed a Task Force on Harassment of Journalists.

The ADL published research in 2017 that included Posobiec among members of the mostly white nationalist “alt-right” movement. Posobiec responded to the ADL’s report by publishing a selfie outside the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland.

A tweet published July 20, 2017
A tweet published July 20, 2017.

"The @ADL_National would be wise to remember what happened the last time people made lists of undesirables,” Posobiec wrote.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, concurred with Segal’s analysis of Posobiec’s statements about Jews:

The use of the "echo" (triple parentheses) was clearly meant to identify and target Jews for abuse. It was used extensively by white nationalists during the 2016 campaign, mainly towards Jewish reporters, columnists and others online who openly opposed the candidacy of President Trump. The use of echoes led to numerous incidents of Jews being "trolled" with anti-Semitic slurs and racist comments.

Dove Kent, the senior strategy officer for Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, said OANN’s hire of Posobiec puts Jewish people at risk:

In 2020 it must be said: no news network seeking any kind of credibility should employ someone who traffics in antisemitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories, with ties to white nationalist groups, like Jack Posobiec. Posobiec has a track record of harassing Jewish journalists, on multiple occasions employing antisemitic symbols used by white nationalists and neo-Nazis to call attention to a person’s Jewish identity, resulting in online targeting, threats of death, rape, and other violence against them and their families. Posobiec's hire at One America News Network reflects their willingness to mainstream and even embrace antisemitism, and demonstrates their utter negligence for the safety of the American Jewish community.

Posobiec made jokes mocking the Holocaust on a Periscope livestream

On March 31, 2017, Posobiec posted to Twitter a Periscope livestream in which he made jokes mocking the Holocaust. At the time, Posobiec was livestreaming a book launch for white nationalist author Scott Greer from the Washington, D.C., office of the conservative website The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller cut ties with Greer about a year and a half after the event attended by Posobiec, once The Atlantic reported he was writing for Richard Spencer’s publication Radix Journal under the pseudonym “Michael McGregor.” Right Wing Watch noted that in addition to Greer, other white nationalists, including writers for the white supremacist publication American Renaissance, also attended the event with Posobiec.

Posobiec’s livestream of the event, which he published to Twitter, stands out because of comments he made that mock the genocide of Jewish people during World War II. He referred in his video to “Kekistan,” a meme created by white nationalists on the imageboard site 4chan. The meme combined imagery surrounding the cartoon Pepe the Frog with explicit Nazi symbolism. Posobiec referred to himself as being “Kekistani,” which was typically used as a dog whistle to signal solidarity among white supremacists at that time, particularly ones that used the imageboard forum 4chan.

“I heard, someone heard… they turned Kekistanis into soap … [they’re] turning them into lampshades,” Posobiec said on the livestream.

It is common in white supremacist circles to reference Jews being turned into soap and lampshades. The rumor of Nazis turning Jews into soap is part of a war-borne myth that began during the Holocaust, according to scholars. White supremacists sometimes bring it up as a way of trivializing the genocide of the Jews during World War II.

Much more than Pizzagate

Pizzagate reached the height of public attention when a man brought firearms into the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor and held up the staff and patrons in December, 2016, while he searched for evidence to support accusations from far-right conspiracy peddlers that the restaurant was a hub for child sex trafficking perpetrated by prominent Democrats. Posobiec promoted #Pizzagate on Twitter, but he also used the website for other disinformation campaigns in addition to it. One rather infamous example is the so-called Rape Melania spectacle, referring to First Lady Melania Trump.

Nov. 2016 retweet
@JackPosobiec retweeted a user who bought into in his apparent “Rape Melania” stunt on Nov. 14, 2016.

Buzzfeed reported in January 2017 that Posobiec planned and executed an effort to place a hand-printed sign that read “Rape Melania” in a crowd of anti-Trump protesters outside of the Trump hotel in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election. Twitter users posted video of the protest, amplifying the sign and helping to stir up the impression that a Trump protestor wrote it. The words “Rape Melania” trended on Twitter immediately following the event and Posobiec used the website to mock Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey.

“1. Melania Trump calls for an end to cyber-bullying. 2. @Jack allows Rape Melania to trend,” Posobiec wrote on Nov. 14, 2016, through the account which also claimed “fmr CBS News.”

March 2017 tweet
A Twitter bio used by @JackPosobiec in March 2017 refers to “fmr CBS News.”

Posobiec also boasted in private chats about goading anti-Trump protesters to advocate assassinating Trump, Buzzfeed reported. Hatewatch found archived evidence of that effort from Nov. 10, 2016, in which Posobiec quoted an anti-Trump protester saying, “Assassinate that N***a.” Russia Today, a Kremlin-controlled news website, published the tweet in a story about apparent threats against Trump on Nov. 11, 2016.

Posobiec also used Twitter to seed erroneous stories about “antifa,” a left-wing protest movement targeting white supremacy. He claimed on Twitter that antifa was discussing “attacking churches” after a Texas man murdered two dozen people in a Texas church. Although the murders were totally unrelated to antifa, the story had to be repeatedly debunked by reporters and fact-checking sites. Posobiec was also involved in planting a baseless story on Dec. 18, 2017, that falsely implied antifa was responsible for derailing a train near Tacoma, Washington, among other, similar instances of appearing to deliberately misdirect news seekers on Twitter.

Posobiec’s “1488” tweets

Critics of Posobiec, including Jeet Heer of The Nation, have accused Posobiec of using the so-called 1488 meme on Twitter. “1488” is a tag that white supremacists use to signify solidarity with one another.

Hatewatch examined the claims about Posobiec’s 1488 tweets. A screenshot of an apparent tweet of Posobiec’s from Sept. 6, 2016, read, “NY Times pg 14: 88 Military Leaders Endorse Trump,” for example. Hatewatch found that Trump was in fact endorsed by 88 military leaders on Sept. 6, 2016. However, the New York Times headline of that story was different. In actuality, it read: “Donald Trump Is Endorsed by Nearly 90 Military Figures,” suggesting that Posobiec at minimum changed it. Hatewatch also determined by reviewing back catalogues of the physical edition of The New York Times that the story did not appear on page 14 that day, making Posobiec’s apparent 1488 tweet difficult to accept on its face as an act of factual reporting.

Hatewatch was unable to find an archive of the New York Times tweet, but screenshots suggest it was part of a flurry of posts he issued in September 2016 in which he used both of the numbers 14 and 88 in different, seemingly random contexts. Hatewatch was able to find at least two archived examples of Posobiec using 14 and 88 in tweets around that time frame: here and here, demonstrating that this was indeed something he did at that time.

September 2016 post
@JackPosobiec tweeted a number of apparent “1488” posts in September 2016.

“They've used it 1400 times in the last 88 years,” Posobiec wrote in one example, responding to a tweet by Pro-Trump pundit Bill Mitchell suggesting that “‘choice’ is a Liberal code word for white supremacy.”

“Everyone in the world sees what you're doing,” a pseudonymous user replied to that tweet.

How we authenticated Posobiec’s deleted tweets

Due to the pattern of Posobiec deleting and later denying his Twitter history, Hatewatch found archived versions of his posts during this investigation wherever possible. Archiving is a process that uses web crawlers to create a simulacrum of what was visible on a web address at a particular time. Hatewatch also reached out to the proprietors of the Wayback Machine (Archive.org) for an analysis explaining how internet archiving works. Mark Graham, director of the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, told Hatewatch via email:

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine Web crawling and archiving software captures Web-based sources, including the HTML, CSS, JavaScript, image and other media files that together can be rendered, or played back, as a Web page. The provenance of each of those URL-based elements is recorded, including the time/date it was archived. As such, we are able to represent, with an integrity level so high our archives have been ruled admissible as evidence in multiple courts, that what is presented by the Wayback Machine, for a given URL, is a true and accurate representation of what was available, from the live web, at the time and date the capture was made.

New election year, same @JackPosobiec

June 2 post
@JackPosobiec appeared to promote white vigilantism in response to civil unrest on June 2.

The Daily Beast noted that in June 2020, right after Trump called left-wing “antifa” protesters part of a “Terrorist organization,” Posobiec posted to Twitter an apparently baseless story suggesting that someone planted bombs at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. The bomb tweet was shared over 30,000 times and helped spawn sensational coverage across junk news websites.

Posobiec also appeared to promote white vigilantism in early June, as Black Lives Matter protests continued across the U.S. and beyond. He did this at least four times on June 1: 123, 4.

“It’s all fun and games until the rooftops start speaking Philly,” Posobiec wrote, appearing to refer to armed white men patrolling rooftops in that city following a day of riots and antiracist demonstrations.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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