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HonestReporting Joins Blackout After Barrage of Twitter Antisemitism


HonestReporting is joining a widespread 48-hour Twitter ‘blackout’ after the musician known as Wiley was allowed to tweet incitement against Jews for hours unimpeded. We stand together with the demands of other Jewish organizations that are calling on Twitter to act more quickly to prevent the spread of dangerous hate speech to large audiences.

Rapper Richard Kylea Cowie Jr., better known by his stage name Wiley, spent hours on Friday mounting a relentless attack against Jews, including calls for black people to go to “war” against Jews. Wiley claimed in these tweets that Jews had usurped black people as the Hebrews, a conspiracy theory that has led to acts of terrorism against Jews, such as the stabbing attack in Monsey in New York in December 2019. Wiley also called for Jews to be shot.

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Wiley’s extended rant on Twitter saw him repeatedly invoking conspiracy theories positing that Jews were responsible for the international slave trade, claiming that Jews had cheated him and were “snakes”, comparing Jews to the Ku Klux Klan, and suggesting that Jews should “hold some corn” – a colloquialism meaning that the subjects be shot.

Over the course of several hours, Wiley issued dozens of offensive tweets to his audience of over 493k followers. Twitter’s reaction was to delete a handful of his tweets and briefly suspend his account – a woefully inadequate response.

Yet despite Wiley’s large online following, his protracted rant was initially met with little coverage in the traditional media.

For years, HonestReporting has been urging the broadcast media to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. More recently, HonestReporting has taken the step of urging social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to adopt the same standard, on the understanding that social media networks are now as influential as traditional media outlets – if not more.

After hours of inaction, while Wiley continued to spew his vile hatred, it became clear that Twitter was unable or unwilling to properly tackle its ongoing hate speech problem.

Ongoing Failure to Deal with Antisemitism

In recent weeks, Twitter has been at the center of numerous incidents underlining its inability to adequately deal with hate speech.

After a mass uproar that followed the announcement that  infamous antisemite Louis Farrakhan was due to receive a platform on broadcast media, the hate-filled Independence Day address was shifted to social media. While YouTube eventually deleted the three-hour long rant, clips continued to circulate on other social media, including Twitter, and have been shared by well-known public personalities to an audience of many thousands of people.

Social media giants including Twitter and others have refused to totally de-platform Farrakhan. Despite breaching Twitter’s hate speech policies, his hateful messages continue to reach literally hundreds of thousands of people, and have been shared by celebrities such as Diddy, also known as Puff Daddy, and DJax.

And just last week, on July 22, it came to light that Twitter’s “hateful imagery” mechanism was identifying the Star of David, an ancient Jewish symbol, as hate speech and locking the accounts of users who display it in their profile pictures. Users received the following message from Twitter:

We have determined that this account violated the Twitter Rules. Specifically for: Violating our rules against posting hateful imagery. You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. As a result, we have locked your account.

The banned images ranged from a white Star of David in a graffiti style, to a superimposition of the modern blue star on the flag of Israel spliced with the yellow star Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis, to a montage of yellow stars.

Adopt the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

At a time when genuine antisemitism is allowed to proliferate, the deletion – accidental or otherwise – of Jewish symbols and banning of account owners for “hate speech” is an insult and a sign that Twitter’s approach is not working.

The current hate speech terms on many social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok don’t address all the modern forms of antisemitism that exist today. So even when reported, antisemitic content doesn’t always fall within these networks broad definitions of hate speech.

That’s why it’s so important that social media platforms clearly define antisemitism in all its forms. It’s time for Facebook, Twitter and Google to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism into their hate speech definitions.

Until Twitter takes a serious stand against online hatred, it will continue to proliferate. Understanding that identifying and quickly acting against the sharing of poisonous incitement is key to preventing its spread.

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Emanuel Miller

Emanuel Miller is a Jerusalem-based writer who has previously worked for the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel, and helped establish the English media department of My Truth, an organization that documents the experiences of Israeli soldiers while facing an immoral, cynical enemy. He regularly speaks about Israel, media bias, and Israel's geopolitical complexities to audiences including Birthright groups, student leaders visiting Israel, and for those seeking to get a more nuanced understanding of Israel.