Twitter under fire after it was slow to react to Jewish Labour activist being subjected to anti-Semitic abuse

Rhea Wolfson tweeted her frustration as the social media giant failed to suspend a user who targeted her

Caroline Mortimer
Saturday 01 October 2016 22:17
Rhea Wolfson was targeted by an anti-Semitic troll but Twitter initially refused to get involved
Rhea Wolfson was targeted by an anti-Semitic troll but Twitter initially refused to get involved

A Jewish Labour activist has been told that abuse calling for her to be deported to Auschwitz does not violate Twitter rules.

Rhea Wolfson, who is a member of Labour’s governing NEC, tweeted her dismay when she received an automatic response from Twitter’s abuse reporting team saying they could not “determine a clear violation of the Twitter Rules surrounding abusive behaviour”.

An account called Battle of Britain 88 repeatedly bombarded Ms Wolfson with abuse – calling her “dirty”, using a derogatory term for a Jewish person, and saying she was “ready for the ovens”.

Another tweet threatened the activist saying: “One way ticket to Auschwitz for you”.

According to Twitter's rules, published on their website, users “may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease”.

It also forbids “the targeted abuse or harassment of others”.

Following an intervention by the Community Security Trust, a charity which helps and protects the Jewish community in the UK, the user was suspended.

A spokesman for the charity told The Independent: “This is a problem that keeps happening, especially for women and Jews, in the realm of politics.

“It’s an ugly trend and it is important that social media companies like Twitter get a grip of the situation and do something about it.”

This is not the first time the social media giant has come under fire for the way it handles abuse.

In 2013, several high-profile female MPs, journalists and campaigners were threatened with rape and bomb threats following a campaign to have a woman on the £10 note.

Two people were eventually convicted of sending threatening messages to journalist Caroline Criado-Perez who spearheaded the campaign, and Twitter promised to introduce new reporting mechanisms for abusive messages.

In July, it announced it would be cracking down on racist and sexist messages after Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones left the service when she was targeted by a torrent of abuse.

Labour MP Luciana Berger, who is also Jewish, has been the subject of repeated anti-Semitic abuse on and off social media since she was first elected to represent Liverpool Wavertree in 2010.

In July, John Nimmo was jailed for sending her emails saying she would “get it like Jo Cox” and told her to “watch your back Jewish scum”, after previously being convicted of targeting Ms Criado-Perez.

He was responding to the prosecution of a far-right activist, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, who was charged with a racially or religiously aggravated hate crime against Ms Berger.

It comes as the Labour Party is engulfed in a fresh anti-Semitism row after it emerged that the Momentum vice chair, the grassroots organisation set up to support party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was filmed claiming Holocaust Memorial Day did not commemorate the victims of other genocides and said she “still hadn’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with”.

She has since been suspended by the party and is likely to be removed from Momentum after its steering committee meeting on Monday.

But Ms Wolfson, who is herself a supporter of Mr Corbyn, said she did not think the troll had any connection to the party.

A spokesman for Twitter told The Independent that they do not comment on individual cases, but highlighted their rules on hateful conduct, saying: "We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others."

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