Politicians, celebrities and other public figures have joined a 48-hour boycott of Twitter and Instagram after the platforms were criticised over their responses to anti-Semitic comments posted by the British rapper Wiley.
In a series of posts on Friday, 41-year-old Wiley, popularly known as the “godfather of grime”, drew comparisons between the Jewish community and the Ku Klux Klan, and posted an image claiming that Jews made up the majority of American slave owners — a false narrative that has previously been circulated among white supremacists.
Twitter and Instagram responded by blocking Wiley from posting on his accounts — which have 498,000 and 452,000 followers respectively — for a week, and removing the posts.
However, some of content remained visible and searchable for hours after being posted, while the post featuring the false claim about Jewish slave ownership is still accessible on Wiley’s Twitter account.
Organisations such as the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism have criticised the platforms for only temporarily banning Wiley’s account rather than shutting it entirely.
“Instead of acting immediately to close down Wiley’s accounts, Twitter and Facebook have decided to protect this racist, with Twitter deleting only a few token tweets and leaving most of Wiley’s incitement to racial hatred online,” said a spokesperson for the CAA.
MPs, celebrities and organisations such as the Jewish global human rights non-profit group the Simon Wiesenthal Center are among those who announced they would be taking part in the #NoSpaceForJewHate boycott, which began on Monday at 9am.
Facebook said there was 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,” the company said.
Twitter said the platform strongly condemned abuse and harassment. “We enforce our rules judiciously and impartially for all, and take action if an account violates our rules,” it said, adding that hateful imagery and content that promoted violence against individuals on the basis of characteristics such as faith were prohibited.
In a tweet, UK home secretary Priti Patel described the posts as “abhorrent” and said she had asked Twitter and Instagram for a full explanation for the time it took them to remove the posts. “Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred from their platforms,” she said.
Toni Vitale, partner and head of data protection at JMW Solicitors, said that in the UK, an internet service “host” was not liable for content “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”.
Wiley’s comments come amid growing debate over content moderation on social media. Facebook is at present the target of an advertising boycott over its handling of hate speech and racism.
The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a white paper on online harms more than a year ago, which proposed that platforms should have a “duty of care” to safeguard their users from content, including hate crimes.
However, the bill may not come into effect until 2024 — a delay that was last month criticised by David Puttnam, chair of the Lords democracy and digital committee.