Wiley permanently suspended by Twitter over anti-Semitism

Wiley performs on stage during day 2 of South West Four Festival 2019 at Clapham Common on August 25, 2019 in London, England.Image copyright Getty Images

Grime artist Wiley has been permanently banned from Twitter, five days after posting anti-Semitic remarks.

It follows a 48-hour boycott of Twitter by many users over what they said had been an unacceptable delay in dealing with the offending tweets.

“We are sorry we did not move faster,” Twitter said in a statement.

The escalation comes a day after Facebook and Instagram deleted the music star’s accounts for “repeated violations” of their rules.

Twitter said it has taken a similar step because the artist had broken its “hateful conduct” policy.

The San Francisco-based firm had previously temporarily suspended Wiley and left many of his past tweets visible. But it said it had decided to now make the ban permanent, and wipe all his past posts from its platform “upon further consideration”.

“We deeply respect the concerns shared by the Jewish community and online safety advocates,” the statement said, promising to continue to tackle anti-Semitism.

Wiley’s first tweets appeared on Friday night.

One tweet read: “I don’t care about Hitler, I care about black people”, and compared the Jewish community to the Ku Klux Klan.

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Media captionRapper Wiley’s Twitter account has been suspended after anti-Semitic posts.

The star, known as the “godfather of grime”, was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2018.

But Twitter did not delete that or other tweets, or issue its first temporary ban, until later in the weekend.

Analysis

By Marianna Spring, specialist disinformation and social media reporter

The permanent suspension of the rapper’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles has been widely welcomed.

However, it is emblematic of a slowness to act on hateful abuse, from social media sites. And many are asking why this took so long.

Time and time again, decisive action from social media sites over racist abuse, misinformation or hate speech has come only once comments have reached thousands of users.

What does it take for Twitter to act decisively on anti-Semitic abuse?

In this case it appears to be external pressure – the move comes after a boycott by users.

And it also seems to be dependent on what the other social media sites choose to do: Facebook moved to suspend Wiley’s accounts yesterday, and then Twitter appeared to follow suit.

With the Stop Hate for Profit campaign ramping up pressure, and increased focus on the way social media sites tackle hate speech and misinformation, the spotlight will intensify on the actions of Twitter, Facebook and Google in these scenarios.

The delay in Twitter taking action prompted the 48-hour boycott of Twitter by many users – including celebrities and MPs – beginning on Monday morning. Organisers said the time reflected the “48 hours of pure race hate” they accuse Twitter of giving to Wiley.

On Tuesday, Facebook issued a ban after Wiley was discovered posting abusive material on his personal page using his real name, Richard Cowie.

Twitter followed suit on Wednesday, after what it said was a thorough investigation.

Despite the move, advocacy group the Board of Deputies of British Jews said both Twitter and Facebook had been slow to act, adding “it is just not good enough”.

“Social media companies have not been strong or fast enough about tackling racism, misogyny or homophobia,” it said in a statement.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism echoed that sentiment, writing that Twitter “has finally listened”.

“The closure of Wiley’s account is too little too late, but it is at least a start for this deeply irresponsible social network,” it said.

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