Over the summer of last year, the British rapper Wiley delivered a multi-day antisemitic tirade over several social media networks, leading to a mass, online walkout. Following a protest by Campaign Against Antisemitism at Twitter’s London headquarters and interventions from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, Twitter was finally forced to acknowledge the scale of antisemitic hatred on its platform and commit to addressing it.
Within weeks, Twitter invited Campaign Against Antisemitism to become a “Twitter partner”, allowing us to report problematic material directly through the company’s “partner portal” to Twitter personnel (rather than machines) for review. We were led to understand that these personnel were trained to identify antisemitism.
As well as submitting material for review on a regular basis, we also collated and summarised the material in monthly reports, which we submitted to Twitter at the end of December, January and February.
In aggregate, we submitted a selection of 1,000 of the most horrendous antisemitic tweets to Twitter incorporating classic antisemitic tropes, Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish incitement. Among them were numerous tweets incorporating the hashtag #HitlerWasRight or the phrase “Holohoax” and references to “fake Jewish Holocaust”, conspircaies about Jewish power and control, blood libels against Jews, calls to “Gas the Jews” and other extreme antisemitic hate speech and abuse.
The following is a sample of tweets from just one day – 4th December 2020 – all of which Twitter deemed acceptable for its platform.
- “Wow. Biden’s now over 81 million votes? It’s like the Holohoax: you can just keep making up numbers” [complaint ticket 0183098131]
- “G-d forbid anyone running for office condemn Israel for what they did and are currently doing to the Palestinians. They wouldn’t get elected considering Jews control our government, MSM [mainstream media], social media, Hollywood, financial institutions” [complaint ticket 0183100735]
- “Except Hitler was right” [complaint ticket 0183140200]
- “It’s probably the same useless junk that is in any other vaccines. All vaccines were created by Jews to control the population of the goyim. (((Jonas Salk)))” [complaint ticket 0183100251]
- “What the f*** is this joke man???? What year are we living? THIS F***IN[‘] PROVES ZIONIST JEWS R PART OF THIS. WHY? VERY SIMPLE. THEY CONTROLLING THE WORLD. THEY CONTROL MEDIA. YET NOTHING IS GOING ON. THEY ENJOYING JUST LIKE THEY ENJOYED 1915 ARMENIAN GENOCIDE. SO F*** U ALL! [sic]” [complaint ticket 0183099274]
- “3 baby Jew rats. 1 will grow up and Rob empires. 1 will go up committing sex act. 1 will grow up and become a Rabbi and will commit Jewish Talmudic Hebaric Terrrorism [sic]” [complaint ticket 0183140615]
This sample of tweets from just one single day showcases the variety of antisemitic tropes and the diversity of Anglophone Twitter users promoting them. But the degree of anti-Jewish racist vitriol on Twitter is well-established, and it has only intensified during the pandemic. What was remarkable, however, was that all of these tweets – and hundreds of others like them – were brought to Twitter’s attention over the course of several months by Campaign Against Antisemitism but were expressly deemed by the company to be acceptable on its platform.
Astonishingly, about 60 percent of the tweets that we submitted were not deemed to have breached Twitter’s policies on hate. For example, in December we reported 239 tweets, of which only 43 were found to be in violation of Twitter’s rules.
Meanwhile, although 194 of those tweets were found not to have violated the rules, the material in permitted and prohibited tweets was often the same. Moreover, 37 of the permitted tweets were subsequently reversed on re-submission or escalation, a token gesture that raised further questions about the consistency of Twitter’s implementation of its own rules: Why are some tweets removed while others incorporating the same antisemitic content are permitted to remain? Why do some Twitter operators deem certain tweets to be antisemitic but other operators take a different view on the same tweets?
At no time has Twitter adequately explained to us the parameters for removing or permitting tweets or who is reviewing hateful material or how they have been trained. Campaign Against Antisemitism’s offers of training for Twitter staff have been ignored.
After we raised concerns about the implementation of Twitter’s policies – following the grime artist Wiley’s antisemitic rampage on social media last summer – Twitter agreed to meet with us monthly to discuss progress. However, after the first meeting in December, notwithstanding that we continued to send reports over the ensuing months, Twitter cancelled further meetings. The tech giant welcomed the continued submission of the reports but asserted that the monthly meetings – of which only one had taken place – could not proceed. Although we continued to send reports, these have no longer been acknowledged or acted upon. In short, Twitter cut off contact with us after we provided clear evidence that their policies on hateful material were failing.
Remarkably, it was Twitter that invited Campaign Against Antisemitism to become its partner on tackling antisemitism on its platform, and it was Twitter that suggested monthly meetings to progress matters. But when its own partner alerted the social media giant to the scale of anti-Jewish hatred and the inconsistency of the implementation of its own rules, Twitter decided not to proceed at all. These are not the actions of a company interested in addressing antisemitism on its platform.
Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “We do not have confidence in Twitter’s capacity to address the rampant antisemitism on its platform. As Twitter’s partner in trying to combat anti-Jewish hate, we have not come to this conclusion lightly. But the opacity of Twitter’s parameters, its inconsistent implementation of its own policies, its lack of interest in our offers of training for its personnel, and its decision ultimately to stop engaging with us at all, are not the actions of a company that takes antisemitism seriously.
“If Twitter brought us on as a partner as some sort of fig leaf for its inaction, we are now laying bare the true picture of the company. Having cut off contact with us after we provided clear evidence that Twitter’s policies on hateful material are failing, it is clear that the company is neither capable nor interested in tackling antisemitism, and it must now fall to an independent regulator to assume that role instead. We continue to urge the Government to take action now to stem the tide of antisemitic hate online.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has long called for tougher regulations on social media sites and that social networks proactively search for and remove hate speech from their platforms. We also continue to make representations to the Government on this matter.