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Jewish Activists Participate in Virtual Walkout to Protest Twitter’s Handling of Anti-Semitism

Jewish Journal | Aaron Bandler | July 27, 2020

Various Jewish groups, activists and other Twitter users are participating in a 48-hour virtual worldwide walkout from Twitter. Under the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate, the walkout is a response to ongoing anti-Semitism on the platform.

The walkout began on July 27 at 9 a.m. British Standard Time and included notable British figures including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, actor Tracy-Ann Oberman and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

A coalition of British Jewish activists announced in a July 25 statement that the walkout was in response to Twitter’s handling of British rapper Wiley’s anti-Semitic tweets. Wiley, born Richard Kylea Cowie Jr., posited in a July 24 tweet if it was anti-Semitic “to say Jewish people have power,” “listen to me Jewish community Israel is not your country,” and “Jewish people you make me sick,” among other queries.

The British Jewish activist statement read, “The ‘walkout’ we are announcing today is to show that the Jewish community and its allies have had enough of platforms like Twitter acting as loudspeakers for anti-Semitism, amplifying the hatred of Jews to millions of other social media users. As soon as Wiley began posting his anti-Semitic tweets on Friday Twitter was flooded with requests to have his account taken down. In response Twitter deleted a couple of his tweets and gave the grime star a brief suspension. It was a completely inadequate response.”

On the evening of July 24, Twitter suspended Wiley for 12 hours. Wiley started tweeting again on July 25 and Twitter responded by banning him again for seven days. Fiona Sharpe, one of the British Jewish activists told the Journal that the protest goes beyond Twitter’s handling of Wiley.

“This is about the ongoing hate that social media companies allow to be spread on their platforms,” Sharpe said, “and not just that they allow it. [It’s] that they amplify [hate] because with every tweet it is getting bigger and bigger.”

By 10a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, Sharpe told the Journal the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate hashtag has been tweeted and retweeted at least 250,000 times, with most people stating they were participating in the walkout.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Such a huge, diverse group of people [participating]… it’s just quite amazing.”

She added that Twitter uses an algorithm to handle complaints about tweets containing hate speech and that the coalition hopes Twitter has live people handle such complaints instead of an algorithm.

“We hope that this will be the beginning of a movement to really make social media companies and platforms take greater responsibility for the content that they’re showing,” she said.

American Jewish groups were among those that announced they were participating in the #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate campaign.

“In solidarity with British Jewry, the SWC will be participating in the 48-hour @Twitter walkout, officially beginning 9 a.m. on Monday,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted. “Please check our other social media feeds for news and updates.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted, “Anti-Semitism, or any form of bigotry, has no place in our societies or on social media. AJC will be joining the 48-hour @Twitter walkout from 9am BST (4am ET) Monday in solidarity with our friends and allies in the UK [United Kingdom].”

StandWithUs also tweeted, “.@Twitter has allowed anti-Semitism to flourish online. It has made this platform absolutely intolerable and toxic. On Monday, we’re joining a walkout for 48 hours. If you want to take action against racism & hate, join us & spread the word.”

Liora Rez, director of the Stop watchdog, said in a statement to the Journal, “Jews have been screaming at the top of our lungs for years now about the vile anti-Semitism Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allows. Perhaps if we, and our collective allies, significantly decrease our social media footprint and subsequently decrease their ad dollar flow, the social media giants will have no choice but to listen and finally act.”

Canadian Jewish groups also participated. B’nai Brith Canada tweeted: “Starting Monday, we are joining a walkout for 48 hours. Join us to take action against racism & hate. We hope this campaign will bring awareness to the cesspool of hate that is allowed to thrive on this platform.”

Twitter did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.


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