By Lawrence Pintak, Jonathan Albright and Brian J. Bowe
Dr. Pintak, Dr. Albright and Dr. Bowe are the authors of a study by the Social Science Research Council on anti-Muslim sentiment on social media during the 2018 midterm elections.
Donald Trump has made the demonization of Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, a key element of his 2020 re-election strategy. But the targeting of Ms. Omar and her fellow Democrat and Muslim member of Congress, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, started as soon as they became candidates.
We published a study this week that found that, around the 2018 midterm elections, Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib were in the cross hairs of a tiny band of Islamophobes, long before Mr. Trump elevated them in his tweetstorms, and likely before they were even on his radar.
We studied more than 113,000 tweets, posted from early September 2018 to the weekend before the election, that mentioned Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Omar Qudrat, a Republican congressional candidate in California who lost his race.
Ilhan Omar was the prime target. Roughly half of the 90,000 tweets mentioning her included hate speech or Islamophobic or anti-immigrant language. Put another way, almost 60 percent of the network of accounts that mentioned or tagged her had posted at least one tweet containing hate speech or overt disinformation. Almost one-third of the tweets mentioning Ms. Tlaib were Islamophobic or xenophobic. Even Mr. Qudrat, a former military terrorism prosecutor, faced online harassment.