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Tue, 20 October 2020

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Labour demands social media crackdown after anti-semitic Tweets by grime star Wiley

Labour demands social media crackdown after anti-semitic Tweets by grime star Wiley

Twitter and Instagram have been criticised for the speed at which they banned the 41-year-old grime artist over the anti-Jewish posts. (PA)

3 min read

Labour is urging the Government to confront “hate speech” on social media after grime star Wiley posted a string of anti-semitic tweets.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said the anti-Jewish messages — branded “abhorrent” by Home Secretary Priti Patel — showed the need for “proper legislation” to make tech firms accountable for policing their sites.

Wiley has been banned from Twitter and Instagram, dropped by his management, and his posts are now the subject of a police investigation after the 41-year-old shared anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and insults to his nearly-one million online followers.

But the social media platforms themselves have come under fire for the speed at which the posts were removed, as well as the length of an initial 12-hour Friday night ban against the grime artist, which allowed him to continue posting abusive messages on Saturday.

Condemning the posts, Ms Stevens called on the Government to speed up long-promised legislation aimed at holding tech firms to account for the content posted by users.

The Government’s Online Harms Bill was proposed last year following concern over the impact of self-harm images on young people.

But it remains in the White Paper stage, with a draft bill yet to be brought before Parliament.

The Labour frontbencher pointed to warnings by Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that firms currently had “no incentive to consider a duty of care to those who use their services”.

And the Shadow Culture Secretary said: “The failure to tackle these high-profile examples of hate speech shows why we so desperately need proper legislation to force the social media companies to keep people safe online.”

She added: “Social media companies have had repeated opportunities to show they can police their sites effectively. But when high profile individuals are allowed to keep their platforms after spreading vile anti-Semitic abuse - and then doubling down when challenged - it’s clear that self-regulation isn’t working. 

“The Government promised this bill more than a year ago - it’s high time they showed they take the safety of those who use the internet as seriously as the needs and influence of the big tech firms.”

That call was backed by nonprofit group the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which campaigns to tackle disinformation and abuse online.

CEO Imran Ahmed said: “Twitter’s failure to enforce their own rules and ban Wiley from using its service to spread abhorrent antisemitism is typical behaviour from social media companies, which profit from outrage, attention and the time spent by users on their websites, being served advertising.

“It’s not just hatred – social media platforms have refused to remove misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, during a pandemic when lies cost lives.

“There is no excuse for delay. The Government must urgently table the online harms bill to put an end to vile hatred and dangerous medical misinformation online.”

The Home Secretary has meanwhile urged social media firms to speed up their response to abusive posts in the wake of Wiley’s ban.

In a tweet posted on Sunday, Ms Patel said: “The antisemitic posts from Wiley are abhorrent.

“They should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long and I have asked them for a full explanation.

“Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred from their platforms.”

The intervention came as MPs, celebrities and campaigners prepared to stage a 48-hour "walkout" from Twitter over its handling of anti-semitic posts.

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