NEW YORK - A series of Twitter hashtags falsely accusing Muslims around the world of deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus has pushed Islamophobic disinformation and hate speech to 170 million users since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to new research. The report is published by Equality Labs, a New York-based South Asian community advocacy group.

It shows that the hashtag #Coronajihad has run rampant on Twitter since late March. Posts featuring the hashtag and a range of anti-Muslim rhetoric have also been shared widely on platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. “What happens on social media matters,” said Equality Labs’ executive director Thenmozhi Soundararajan. “When platforms like Twitter fail in responding to addressing hate speech and disinformation in a timely manner, there are consequences.

This was a preventable tragedy.” The organization calculates that more than 293,000 conversations pushing Islamophobic COVID-19 content have taken place on Twitter, where they have generated more than 700,000 points of engagement, including likes, clicks, shares and comments. It has also found that the majority of users creating and sharing such content are young men between the ages of 18 and 34, based in India or the United States. The report, which is due to be published tomorrow, notes that Islamophobic coronavirus-related hate speech and disinformation first appeared on Twitter as early as March 1, weeks before countries around the world began to enforce lockdown.

In many cases, Islamophobic content blaming Muslims for the spread of the virus was first posted to Twitter by Indian Hindu nationalists, but was later amplified by global Islamophobic individuals and groups. Hate speech and disinformation tied to Covid-19 also emanated from Islamophobic social media accounts, pages and groups based in the West.