Hit racial hatred trolls with 'internet asbos' and treat them like sex offenders, MPs say

The MPs warn that racist abuse and violence directed at Jewish people in the UK is twice as common now as in the 1990s

Andy McSmith
Monday 09 February 2015 01:00
Social media users who persistently spread racial hatred online could be given 'internet Asbos' blocking them from sites such as Twitter and Facebook under proposals to tackle rising levels of anti-Semitism
Social media users who persistently spread racial hatred online could be given 'internet Asbos' blocking them from sites such as Twitter and Facebook under proposals to tackle rising levels of anti-Semitism

People who post racial hatred on social media should be treated like sex offenders and served with “internet asbos” banning them social networking sites and preventing them from hiding behind fake identities, a group of MPs alarmed by rising anti-semitism have proposed.

The MPs warn that racist abuse and violence directed at Jewish people in the UK is twice as common now as in the 1990s. Polling evidence commissioned by the panel shows that 37 per cent of the public think that anti-Semitism is more prevalent than it was 10 years ago.

A study by the Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity, logged numerous anti-Semitic posts on social media during the Israeli military action in Gaza in July and August, including the appearance of “Hitler was right” as a hashtag.

One user tweeted “somehow bring back Hitler just for once to finish off the job” and another said: “If anyone still believes Jews have a right to exist on this planet, you are a fucking moron”.

Today’s report by all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism urges the Government to set up a fund for synagogues to protect themselves from attack. They also want guidelines for judges and prosecutors amended to include specific references to anti-Semitism as a hate crime, and a clampdown on racist abuse on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The report comes just days after the leak of a memo in which Twitter’s California-based chief executive, Dick Costolo, acknowledged that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls”. Last month, The Independent also exposed inflammatory comment about Muslims posted on Twitter and Facebook, which the companies refused to take down.

The parliamentary inquiry team, chaired by the Labour MP John Mann, met executives of Facebook and Twitter. Its report praises Facebook as a “willing partner” in the campaign against anti-semitism, but expresses “serious concerns” about Twitter and its complaints procedures.

The report adds: “There is an allowance in the law for banning or blocking individuals from certain aspects of internet communication in relation to sexual offences.

“If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply.”

Legislation passed in 2003 gives courts the power to impose sopos (sexual offences prevention orders) on convicted offenders. In 2012, a man convicted of filming a 14- year-old girl in the shower was banned by Woolwich Crown Court from even owning a computer, but an appeal court ruled that it was unreasonable to prevent someone from having any access at all to the internet.

David Cameron described the report as “hugely important”. He added: “Tackling anti-Semitism goes right to the heart of what we stand for as a country.”

Ed Miliband praised the report for highlighting “important areas for action to eradicate this awful form of hatred”.

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