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Twitter not doing enough to deal with anti-Semitic abuse, say MPs

A Home Affairs Select Committee report says more of Twitter's staff and revenues should be devoted to tackling online abuse

Tom Peck
Sunday 16 October 2016 00:10 BST
Twitter said it would "continue to act" to deal with the problem
Twitter said it would "continue to act" to deal with the problem (Reuters)

An extensive report into anti-Semitism in the UK has criticised Twitter for not doing more to deal with the “vast swathes” of abuse that is posted by its users.

A report by the Home Affairs Select Committee described as “disgraceful” the fact that Jewish Twitter users were routinely subjected to “appalling” levels of online abuse.

In the report, the cross-party committee said it was “shocked” at the “viscerally anti-Semitic nature and volume” of tweets it found, particularly in the direction of Jewish MPs.

It draws attention to Labour MP Luciana Berger, who became the victim of repeated attacks by a US-based neo-Nazi website and who in 2014 received 2,500 abusive messages in three days.

“This experience is no doubt common to many Jewish people outside Parliament, too,” the report said.

“It is disgraceful that any individual should have to tolerate such appalling levels of anti-Semitic abuse in order to use Twitter – a social media platform now regarded as a requirement for any public figure.

“In the context of global revenue of $2.2bn [£1.8bn] dollars, it is deplorable that Twitter continues to act as an inert host for vast swathes of anti-Semitic hate speech and abuse.

“The company has the necessary resources and technical capability, and must do more to address this pernicious problem, which appears to be growing exponentially.”

A spokesperson for Twitter said the company said it would “continue to act” in tackling the problem of abusive behaviour on its platform, but the report said it should be acting in a more “proactive manner” to deal with it.

Currently, the site relies on users reporting incidents of abuse, an unduly lengthy and laborious process when compared with the relative ease of writing an abusive tweet.

The report said more of the company’s resources should be devoted to tackling abuse. Twitter currently employs 3,800 people.

A Twitter spokesman said: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head-on alongside our partners in industry and civil society.

“People must feel safe in order to speak freely and there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.

“In tandem with actioning hateful conduct that breaches Twitter’s rules, we also leverage the platform's incredible capabilities to empower positive voices, to challenge prejudice and to tackle the deeper root causes of intolerance.

“We look forward to further constructive dialogue between Government, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”

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