BRUSSELS, Belgium — Before ISIS took credit for the explosions that killed dozens and injured more than 170 people in Brussels on Tuesday, the hashtag #StopIslam started trending worldwide on social media.
Thousands of comments about Islam flooded Twitter as people spoke about the attacks that struck the Belgian capital. More than 200,000 tweets mentioned #StopIslam in the past 12 hours, according to Wayin, a social intelligence company.
The spread of #StopIslam mirrors a similar phenomenon that happened after the November 13 attacks in Paris, according to computational researchers. After the Paris attacks, millions of tweets flooded the social platform within the first few hours, and one of the trending topics was a debate over whether there is an association between Islam and terrorism.
Researchers from the University of Washington and Qatar Computing Research Institute pored over more than 8 million tweets associated to the Paris attacks, analyzing the sentiment behind the social conversation. “Our findings show that the majority of the tweets were in fact defending Muslims and absolving them from responsibility for the attacks,” the report says.
Similarly, on Tuesday, the #StopIslam hashtag was quickly overtaken by other users slamming the trend as “stupid” and senseless.
Only a fraction of people on social media seemed to accuse Islam of promoting violence, and many social media users were quick to jump in and defend Muslims worldwide, questioning why #StopIslam was gaining traction.
The hacking collective Anonymous weighed in on the social chatter, saying that the hashtag was just another way to spread hate.
However, some in the Muslim community asked fellow Muslims to think about the victims in Brussels first before jumping up to defend their faith.
Others were urged to spread messages of unity, love and hope.