In Depth

Why everybody’s talking about the Twitter boycott over anti-Semitic posts

Social media users stage 48-hour ‘walkout’ in protest against platform’s response to anti-Jewish tirade

A 48-hour boycott of Twitter in under way amid widespread anger over the social media giant’s alleged failure to tackle anti-Semitism on the platform. 

The “walkout” was triggered by a series of anti-Jewish messages posted by grime music artist Wiley (pictured above) on both Twitter and Instagram on Friday.

“Some of the tweets were deleted, but Twitter was criticised for taking time to act and leaving some tweets up,” the BBC reports. Boris Johnson was among those who spoke out against the company, with the prime minister’s spokesperson warning that “Twitter needs to do better”.

Wiley’s posts “should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long”, and “social media companies need to go further and faster to remove content like this”, the spokesperson added.

Who is Wiley and what happened?

East Londoner Wiley - real name Richard Kylea Cowie Jr - has been dubbed the “Godfather of Grime” and was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2018.

But the MC left fans shocked last week when he posted “a stream of messages on social media about Jewish power and Israel – including a comparison between Jews and the Ku Klux Klan”, The Jewish Chronicle says.

During a ten-hour Twitter tirade, Wiley claimed that “there are 2 sets of people who nobody has really wanted to challenge #Jewish & #KKK but being in business for 20 years you start to undestand [sic] why”. 

He also wrote that “you will get fired” if you work “for a company owned by 2 Jewish men and you challenge the Jewish community in anyway [sic]”, before adding: “Listen to me Jewish community Israel is not your country I’m sorry.”

On Saturday, Wiley’s manager John Woolf, who is Jewish, announced that his company, A-List Management, had “cut all ties” with the musician.  

Wiley was also handed a temporary ban from Twitter on Saturday, but posted a screenshot on Instagram showing that his account on the rival platform had been blocked for just a few hours. 

Following an outcry, however, Twitter announced that Wiley’s account had been locked for seven days.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said on Sunday that the platform had also blocked the rapper from his account for seven days, and that there was “no place for hate speech on Instagram”.

Why are the social media platforms being criticised?

Twitter has been accused of “ignoring anti-Semitism” because “his tweets are still visible 12 hours after they were first posted”, HuffPost reports.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has demanded a “full explanation” from Twitter and Instagram as to why the anti-Semitic posts were not removed more quickly. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also written to the firms about their responses, which he condemned as “particularly disheartening” after social media played a “positive role in amplifying the vital voices” of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Monday, the UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, saying: “Your inaction amounts to complicity. I urge you to take swift action to challenge the hatred that currently thrives on your platform.”

The Metropolitan Police is also investigating Wiley’s tweets. In a statement, the force said: “The Met takes all reports of anti-Semitism extremely seriously. The relevant material is being assessed.”

Who is taking part in the walkout?

Twitter users taking part in the 48-hour boycott include high-profile figures from the worlds of television, business, music and politics. 

Actor and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman tweeted that Twitter founder Dorsey “has to stick by [Twitter’s] remit of anti-racism”, adding: “Silence is complicity. Please walk out with us.”

Oberman’s “rallying cry” was echoed by television presenter Rachel Riley, comedian Robert Webb, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, actor Jason Isaacs, radio presenter Maajid Nawaz and businessman Lord Sugar, says the BBC.

Meanwhile, The Jewish Chronicle tweeted: 

A number of MPs have also pledged to take part in the boycott, including Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan and David Lammy, ex-Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and Tory Jane Stevenson.

The Music Producers Guild, the National Children’s Bureau charity, London’s Southbank Centre and the American Jewish Committee are among the organisations backing the action.

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