Ban this hateful antisemitic abuse,
Welby tells social media giants
The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched an excoriating attack on Twitter and Facebook for hosting “nauseating” and “criminal” antisemitic abuse.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said that social media giants must work harder to stop their platforms being used to peddle racist attacks.
He spoke before the launch of a parliamentary report calling for new online Asbos to clamp down on racist trolls by banning repeat offenders from using certain websites.
The archbishop, who has previously waged war on payday lenders, said that he had been shown “utterly nauseating” online material that “would have fitted very nicely into 1930s Germany”. Companies must take down such posts immediately, he said.
“If someone wrote a letter to The Times expressing wildly, revoltingly antisemitic views, would The Times feel it had to publish it? So why is it OK for Twitter and Facebook to publish stuff that is the expression of hatred on the basis of race and ethnicity and is in many cases clearly criminal?” he said. “To put on Twitter a photograph of someone on a bar of soap because they’re Jewish, that is so disgusting they shouldn’t allow it to go up. They should remove it at once. And stop the account of anyone who’s doing that It would mean monitoring but there’s the software to do it.”
Figures released by the Community Security Trust said last week that antisemitism had reached the highest level ever recorded with 1,168 incidents last year, about 20 per cent of them on social media.
The Jewish charity said that the increase had been fuelled by the conflict in Gaza last summer. During that period, the words “Hitler” and “holocaust” were among the top 35 key words used on Twitter.
The terror attack Iast month on a kosher supermarket in Paris has heightened fears that Britain’s 291,000 Jews are vulnerable to attacks.
The archbishop said that it was “incomprehensible” that antisemitism had not become “a feature of history in the way that religious wars have”. He said that the UK remained “one of the safest countries in the world for the Jewish population” but warned that social media had made faraway events feel closer to home, and made it easier to propagate antisemitic material.
An all-party parliamentary inquiry report published today calls for action from the government, police and prosecutors to combat the problem. Among the recommendations is a call for the expansion of prevention orders to cover hate crimes. This would include the option of imposing a ban on persistent abusers from using social media sites.
John Mann, the Labour MP who instigated the report, said that it was time that the companies themselves took responsibility. “These companies are making vast profits,” he said. “If they are not prepared to do something about this, then the politicians have to do it.” Internet giants have struggled to combat the use of their platforms for racist and homophobic attacks, as well as their adoption by groups such as Islamic State to spread propaganda.
Leaked comments by Dick Costalo, the chief executive of Twitter, revealed that he believed that the company had “sucked” at tackling online abusers. “We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day,” he reportedly said.
Labour will this week propose strengthening the law to treat crimes motivated by homophobia or hatred of disability in the same way as racially aggravated attacks. This would allow judges to hand down stiffer sentences.