British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accused Twitter and Facebook of “complicity” in online anti-Semitism on Sunday, charging that the two social media giants’ “inaction” had allowed hate to flourish on their platforms.
“For too long, social media has been a safe space for those who peddle hatred and prejudice,” Mirvis wrote in letters sent to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish.
“Free speech is an essential cornerstone of any civilized society, but when it is used to incite hatred and violence against others, social media companies have a responsibility to act and must do so without delay,” he wrote.
“Over the next two days, many people around the world, including myself, will be suspending their social media activity in protest against the woeful lack of responsible leadership from companies including Twitter and Facebook,” Mirvis continued.
— Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi) July 26, 2020
“This cannot be allowed to stand. Your inaction amounts to complicity. I urge you to take swift action to challenge the hatred that currently thrives on your platform.”
On Monday, Mirvis joined a host of British politicians, celebrities, high-profile figures and other users who signed off of Twitter for two days to protest anti-Semitic hate on the social media platform.
The protest, promoted under the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate, was sparked by Twitter’s handling of a recent anti-Semitic rant by UK rap artist Wiley, and came as anti-hate groups have stepped up pressure for social media platforms to clamp down on rampant hate speech.
Wiley, 41, whose real name is Richard Cowie, posted a stream of anti-Semitic tweets Friday, claiming connections between the Jewish community and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as repeated tropes about Jews and money.
12 Tribes…..Who the fuck are you ?
— Wiley (@WileyCEO) July 24, 2020
The tweets were up for 12 hours before Twitter finally deleted some of them under its “hateful conduct policy,” though others remain. He also posted anti-Semitic content on Instagram, which appeared not to have been deleted.
The grime musician, who has half a million Twitter followers, was given a seven-day suspension from the platform. Amid a wave of backlash his management company said it had cut all ties with him. He is also facing a police investigation.
The protest took root after Jewish actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, who became famous for her role on “EastEnders,” tweeted on Friday night that she was considering abandoning Twitter over Wiley’s two-day spree of aggressively anti-Semitic posts.
Please join us .@Twitter has allowed @WileyCEO 48 hours of pure race hate. His tweets are still up. @jack has to stick by their remit of anti racism. Silence is complicity. Please walk out with us . No to all race hate . No to platforming any race hate #nosafespaceforjewhate pic.twitter.com/gKFDedjzmM
— Tracy-Ann Oberman (@TracyAnnO) July 25, 2020
Though not pledging to join the walkout, British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday criticized Twitter for not acting more quickly to remove the Wiley posts and tweeted, “Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred from their platforms.”
Both Twitter and Facebook are both facing boycotts from major companies that say they are pulling their advertising from the platforms in protest against hate speech online.
Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said last month the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”
The UK walkout came as controversy erupted again, this time as US-based rapper Jay Electronica appeared to call Jews anti-Semites in a series of tweets railing against Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who recently spoke with Nick Cannon about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories mentioned on the TV star’s online show.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.