Twitter boycott: Why are celebrities and MPs holding 48-hour 'walkout'?

Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, actor Jason Isaacs and Green MP Caroline Lucas are among those boycotting social media platform

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 27 July 2020 13:55 BST
The hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate was trending in the UK on Monday, 27 July.
The hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate was trending in the UK on Monday, 27 July. (Twitter)

Writers, politicians and celebrities have begun a 48-hour boycott of Twitter, fuelled by frustrations with the way social media firms handle hateful content.

The virtual “walk-out” began at 9am on Monday, with those taking part pledging to not tweet or use Twitter at all until Wednesday morning.

Why is the boycott taking place?

The boycott stems from a series of tweets from musician Wiley - often referred to as “The Godfather of Grime” - during which he reportedly referred to Jewish people as "cowards" and "snakes".

Wiley, 41, whose real name is Richard Cowie, also used Facebook-owned Instagram to share antisemitic sentiments.

Twitter took down dozens of his tweets and placed a temporary suspension on his account, though some tweets remained on the platform for up to 48 hours before action was taken, according to those protesting.

(Getty (Getty)

A statement from the Holocaust Educational Trust read: “The failure of Twitter and Instagram to adequately deal with the torrent of antisemitic abuse from a prominent grime artist on their platforms over recent days sadly comes as no surprise.

“For years, these platforms and the companies behind them have been warned that they risk becoming safe spaces for hate. That a well-known musician can still share Holocaust denial and racist messages with hundreds of thousands of impressionable young people is a chilling demonstration of their failure to take these warnings seriously.”

Who is taking part?

The hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate was trending in the UK on Monday morning, though due to the protest's nature it is difficult to know precisely how many people are taking part.

High-profile users that have joined in the boycott include filmmaker Armando Iannucci, comedian Robert Webb, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, actor Jason Isaacs and Green MP Caroline Lucas, who tweeted that she was doing it in solidarity with “all those facing hate on social media”.


Other MPs to join the boycott include currnet and former Labour MPs Neil Coyle and Caroline Flint, and Conservative MPs Chris Clarkson and Jane Stevenson.

The vast majority of Twitter users taking part in the walkout appear to be UK-based, though organisations like the American Jewish Committee have also joined.

What has the reaction been?

Before Twitter had removed all of the tweets, Wiley’s management company announced that it was no longer working with the artist.

“Following Wiley’s antisemitic tweets today we at @A-KustMGMT have cut all ties with him. There is no place in society for antisemitism,” tweeted John Woolf, who represented Wiley for several years.

London’s Metropolitan Police said it was investigating Wiley’s tweets after receiving a number of reports relating to his social media posts.

“The Met takes all reports of anti-Semitism extremely seriously,” the police force said in a statement. “The relevant material is being assessed. Anyone with further information can report it online or via 101 with reference 4219917/20.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said Wiley should be prosecuted for “committing the offence of incitement to racial hatred,” which could carry a substantial prison sentence.

The campaign group also called for the revocation of his MBE, which he received in 2018 for services to music, and for Facebook and Twitter to permanently shut down his accounts.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about the boycott but highlighted its abuse and harassment policies in a statement following Wiley's ban.

"We enforce our rules judiciously and impartially for all and take action if an account violates our rules," the firm said.

Instagram said in a statement: "There is no place for hate speech on Instagram. We have deleted content that violates our policies from this account and are continuing to investigate."

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