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July 28, 2020 1:52 pm

Outrage Continues to Grow Over British Rapper’s Antisemitic Rant

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Rapper Wiley arrives for the Brit Awards, at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, Feb. 22, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Neil Hall.

The fallout from a British rapper’s recent antisemitic rant continued on Tuesday, with Jewish organizations boycotting Twitter and Instagram for a second straight day; the rapper’s Facebook account being suspended for a week; Facebook sending a letter to advertisers on the issue; and top UK Jewish groups sending protest letters to Twitter and Facebook demanding action.

On Friday, the rapper in question, Wiley, published an elaborate series of antisemitic rants on Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram in which he said, among other things, “Israel is ours,” you cannot “challenge the Jewish community” without losing your job, the Jews were equivalent to the Ku Klux Klan, and that he was “not antisemitic, I am anti-slippery people.”

“I don’t care about Hitler, I care about black people,” he commented, adding of Jews, “Do you know what these people do to the world?”

The rant prompted a two-day boycott of Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.

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A sportsperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, “The antisemitic posts by Wiley are abhorrent.”

“This material should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long,” the spokesperson noted.

“Social media companies need to go much further and faster in removing hateful comment such as this,” the spokesman added.

On Tuesday, Wiley was finally suspended from Facebook, effectively silencing his presence on the three major social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The suspension will last a week.

Wiley could not resist firing a parting shot at Jews, saying on Facebook just before his suspension, “Black people we have always been below them in their eyes this is what f***ed me up in the head.”

“Why do certain people from other races want us below them?” he added.

The London Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into Wiley’s racist comments.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, praised Facebook’s move, saying, “We are pleased that Facebook has completely removed Wiley’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, following our strong recommendation to them earlier today that they take these steps.”

“This sends a strong message to those who believe that they can use social media platforms to spread hate and we hope that this is just the beginning of a crackdown on those who do so,” she added.

“As mentioned before, we will also be urging Twitter to permanently ban Wiley,” Van der Zyl said, “especially as he as he made it clear earlier today that he intends to exhibit even worse behavior when allowed back onto the platform. Indeed, he should now be banned from all social media platforms.”

“As with Facebook, this is part of a larger conversation on racist, misogynistic, and homophobic accounts, which have been allowed to operate with impunity for far too long,” van der Zyl concluded.

Before the ban was put in effect, Facebook sent an email to advertisers defending its conduct, even as Wiley continued posting.

Steve Hatch, the vice president of Facebook for northern Europe, said in the email, “No one at Facebook finds this type of content and behavior anything other than abhorrent.”

Claiming that the Jewish community worked with Facebook to counter hate speech, Hatch said that “trained teams who handle reports of hate speech content” reacted “immediately” to reports of Wiley’s hateful posts.

“As part of this investigation, we continued to gather expert contextual advice from our partners who represent the Jewish community,” he added. “Their partnership and expertise is invaluable in understanding the nuances of antisemitic language.”

He pointed out that Facebook was cooperating with the police investigation into Wiley.

He then defended the company’s decision to leave Wiley’s accounts active during the probe until a week-long suspension was finally imposed.

“The account will continue to be monitored and its content reviewed,” Hatch claimed.

A spokesperson for the UK‐based Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) reacted to the email saying, “Facebook is in panic mode as it realizes it can longer hide from the consequences of its promotion of racist Jew-hatred on its platforms.”

“But even as it seeks to assure advertisers that it is taking action against behavior on Instagram that it considers ‘abhorrent,’ it is allowing that behavior to continue on Facebook,” the spokesperson added.

“In its statement, Facebook is trying to claim that it has done enough against Wiley’s account, but it has not taken long for reality to catch up and betray the company’s failure to take hate seriously,” the spokesperson said.

“Advertisers would be wise to think twice about whether to associate their brands with corporate enablers of racism, and the government must take action to bring an end to the culture of impunity at social media companies,” the spokesperson concluded.

In another development, the UK’s Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and the Community Security Trust (CST) wrote letters to both Twitter and Facebook requesting transparency from the companies regarding why Wiley’s rant was not stopped.

The letters to Dara Nasr, managing director of Twitter, and Nick Clegg, vice president of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, noted that throughout Wiley’s tirade, “not only was your platform not a safe space for Jews, but through your delayed action many people, including young people, were able to see the posts.”

Accordingly, the letters asked why the sites’ official community standards were not applied, why Wiley only suspended temporarily, why the companies did not make public statements on the issue, why “Wiley” was allowed to be used as a hashtag during his rant and why an antisemitic counter-hashtag was allowed to circulate in response to the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate boycott.

In addition, the letters asked if the companies would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, conduct training for staff who moderate content, change their policies because of the incident, remove Wiley completely from their platforms, engage with the Jewish community and prevent the trending of hate-speech hashtags.

Finally, they asked how the companies would combat the impact of Wiley’s hate speech, and if they would identify other accounts dealing in antisemitism, promote counter-speech and apologize to the Jewish community.

The writers asked for replies within two weeks.

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