Abuse of Jewish MPs cited in warning to social media giants about anonymity
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Abuse of Jewish MPs cited in warning to social media giants about anonymity

Minister Caroline Dinenage MP and Labour's Chi Onwurah reference communal antisemitism monitoring groups who have flagged hateful content on nameless online profiles

Abuse levelled at Dame Margaret Hodge was cited during the committee hearing.

Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Abuse levelled at Dame Margaret Hodge was cited during the committee hearing. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A Government minister has warned tech companies that they will need to do far more to limit internet users’ ability to post hateful messages anonymously, or risk falling foul of the law.

Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage MP was speaking at a Westminster Hall debate this week, just weeks after the Government responded to a national consultation around online harms.

Earlier in the debate Labour’s Chi Onwurah referenced the online antisemitic abuse received by veteran Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge, after she criticised former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Onwurah highlighted how Hodge had been the subject of more than 90,000 posts, saying: “Many were antisemitic, misogynistic and ageist, and many were posted by people hidden behind anonymous screens”.

She added: “We know from several colleagues, from the valuable testimony of groups such as the Antisemitism Policy Trust, and from painful personal experience that online anonymity too often accompanies online abuse.”

Dinenage referenced a report from the Community Security Trust (CST) that highlighted how online antisemitic abuse hit record levels last year.

“Much of that abuse was carried out anonymously,” said the minister. “That behaviour is absolutely unacceptable. We are clear… that being anonymous online does not give anyone the right to abuse others.”

Dinenage said the security agencies had ways of unveiled an anonymous user’s identity if digital hate speech becomes unlawful, adding that the Government was “taking steps through the online harms regulatory framework”.

Recognising that anonymity was sometimes necessary, such as in whistleblowing cases, journalism, and reports of domestic violence, she said: “Our starting point… is that companies must take action against harmful anonymous abuse online”.

Last month the Government outlined “new expectations on companies to keep their users safe online” with digital businesses given “robust rules”, with the Law Commission due to report on the criminal law in this area in the coming months.

“Anonymity is a key factor in online abuse and it is encouraging that MPs are addressing this issue,” said a CST spokesman, following the debate.

“We have proposed that social media companies that allow anonymity on their platforms should be compelled by law to provide the identity of offenders who post illegal or defamatory material, and if they can’t or won’t, then the companies themselves should be held liable.

“This solution would balance the importance of free speech with the need to provide redress for people suffering from antisemitic abuse and threats online.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments