Tech

Twitter faces 'walkout' over its handling of British grime star's anti-Semitic tweets

Key Points
  • Twitter is facing a 48-hour 'walkout' over its handling of anti-Semitic tweets posted from the account of British grime star Wiley.
  • The micro-blogging platform has been accused of being slow to remove the offensive content. 
  • Musicians including Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Jessie Ware said they would take part in the boycott, as did a number of politicians and actors. 
Jack Dorsey, chief executive officer of Twitter Inc. and Square Inc., sits for a photograph following an Empowering Entrepreneurs event at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Twitter is facing a "walkout" over its handling of a string of anti-Semitic tweets that appeared on the account of British rapper Wiley on Friday and Saturday. 

The 41-year-old London grime artist, whose real name is Richard Cowie, has been dropped by his management company, A-List Management. He is also being investigated by the police under hate crime and malicious communications legislation. 

Celebrities, politicians and other high-profile Brits have pledged to boycott Twitter for 48 hours over what they say is an inadequate response from Twitter.

Several posts were deleted by the San Francisco-headquartered social media firm for violating Twitter's "hateful conduct policy" but others have been left up. Some of those that were deleted remained on the platform for nearly 12 hours, resulting in a public backlash against the artist and Twitter. 

The boycott, which has the hashtag #nosafespaceforjewhate attached to it, began Monday at 9am BST. 

British Musicians Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Jessie Ware said they would take part in the boycott, as did Jason Isaacs, the British actor who plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. 

Wiley, who went mainstream in 2008 with his "Wearing My Rolex" track, has over 500,000 followers on Twitter. 

Tweets from Wiley's account asserted that Jews have systematically exploited Black musicians. In one tweet, which has now been deleted, he compared Jews to the Ku Klux Klan.

Ahead of the boycott, the Liberal Democrats announced they would joining "in protest over the shameful inaction against anti-Semitic comments."

While the Labour party supports the boycott, it said it couldn't afford to be absent from social media platforms. 

A Twitter spokesperson said: "Abuse and harassment have no place on our service and we have policies in place — that apply to everyone, everywhere — that address abuse and harassment, violent threats, and hateful conduct."

They added: "If we identify accounts that violate any of these rules, we'll take enforcement action."

Instagram involvement

Anti-Semitic posts were also posted from Wiley's account on Facebook-owned Instagram.

He reportedly posted a screenshot on Instagram, highlighting how he had been given a Twitter ban for one hour for his initial tweets. However, he is said to have come back online later on Saturday morning, and after he resumed tweeting, he was given a seven-day ban by Twitter, meaning he won't be able to log in to his account. 

A Facebook spokesperson said: "There is no place for hate speech on Instagram. We have deleted content that violates our policies from this account and have blocked access to it for seven days."

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel questioned why the U.S. social media giants took so long to remove the posts. 

"The antisemitic posts from Wiley are abhorrent," she wrote on Twitter Sunday. "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."

Toni Vitale, partner and head of data protection at JMW Solicitors, said Twitter and Instagram have no liability themselves in the U.K..

"In the U.K., Electronic Commerce Regulation 19 says that an internet service 'host' is not liable for information on its platform, so long as the service it provides 'consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service' — and it has no knowledge of unlawful activity and acts quickly to remove the offending information when informed."