Extremists using coronavirus outbreak to stoke hatred against Jews
Over the weekend, the number of coronavirus deaths has overtaken that of the Sars epidemic in 2003, the World Health Organization said. (Illustration: Getty Images)

Neo-Nazi and white supremacists are using fears of the deadly coronavirus to stoke hated against Jews and spread conspiracy theories on social-media platforms, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League.

"Following a well-worn pattern of capitalizing on major news stories to advance their bigotry and anti-Semitism, extremists have latched onto fears surrounding the coronavirus story to promote conspiracy theories and even 'boogaloo,'" referring to the extremists' code word for violence, the ADL report said.

According to the ADL, "extremist-friendly" platforms such as Telegram, 4chan and Gab have been filled with messages posted by racists.

"Extremists hope the virus kills Jews, but they are also using its emergence to advance their anti-Semitic theories that Jews are responsible for creating the virus, spreading it to increase their control over a decimated population, or they are profiting off it," the ADL said.

Additionally, more widely used and mainstream social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit have also seen concerning messages being spread by extremists.

The report said that on these platforms, "posters are calling coverage of the coronavirus a hoax and a distraction designed to frighten the public, while others are arguing that the virus's impact is far worse than authorities want people to think."

As of Friday, the World Health Organization reported 31,211 confirmed cases globally, with the vast majority in China and at least 780 deaths.

With this, the number of coronavirus deaths has overtaken that of the Sars epidemic in 2003.

"The relatively small [number of] cases outside China gives us a window of opportunity to prevent this outbreak from becoming a broader global crisis," WHO's Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference on Friday. "Our greatest concern is about the potential for spreading countries with weaker health system and lack the capacity to detect or diagnose the virus."

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