The Salem witch trials, a series of hearings and prosecutions, began in 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people.
A sad story indeed. And while I hold no judgement to people who believe themsleves to be witches, there is no scientific, empirical, or reasonable proof that any actual witches existed or that the magic they claimed to perform actually did what it was supposed to do.
The modern use of "witch hunt" therefore is not about hunting down people with evil magical powers, but rather refers to the persecution and harassment of individuals or people who have opinions that are believed to be dangerous or evil.
A great example is when Arthur Miller dramatized the events of 1692 in his play “The Crucible” (1953), by using the Salem witch trials as an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch hunts” led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Known as the McCarthy era, this real life story resulted in the persecution of thousands of Americans, accused of being either Communists, or Communist-sympathizers.
There are a ton of current-day examples. I'm curious to hear your opinions of what constitutes as a twenty-first century witch trial.