MPs this week criticised Twitter’s “defensive” response to concerns about rising online anti-Semitism after a meeting with the social media giant, in the wake of vile abuse aimed at Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger.
John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, joined Hendon MP Matthew Offord and others in raising the issue during talks in Dublin with both Twitter and Facebook on Monday.
While Facebook was praised for its approach, the parliamentarians were less impressed with Twitter, which defended its response to online anti-Semitism by saying: “There’s so much out there,” according to those present.
“They likened the tweets to hearing an offensive conversation in the street, meaning that it’s soon gone as you pass by,” said Offord of the micro-blogging site’s argument. “Needless to say, we don’t see it like that.”
The parliamentary group said Twitter refused to comment on the details of individual cases, although the issue of Ms Berger was brought up. “Facebook was amenable, open and willing to engage with our concerns,” said Offord. “We did not feel the same about Twitter. They were very defensive and not as proactive.”
The criticism comes in the same week that social media giants were forced to defend their response to online threats made by Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers, just days before he was murdered in Woolwich in May last year. Both Mann and Berger have suffered online abuse in recent weeks, with neo-Nazi group members having been arrested and jailed.
The All-Party group will now press their case for changes with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. Among the ideas being discussed is a so-called ‘Internet ASBO,” first proposed by Mann in the House of Commons. Currently, a court order can ban sex offenders from using the internet, and some MPs want this to be extended to those determined to perpetrate race hate. “When someone is banned from one social media site, they just move to another platform, and we need to prevent this,” said Offord.
“We’re also pressing for better identification, although this can be difficult because 80 percent of all posts are made from hand-held devices.”
Last year, Twitter was eventually forced to give French authorities data that identified users responsible for a spate of vile anti-Semitic tweets, but only after a long- running court battle launched by Jewish students.