Twitter to crack down on race hate

Twitter will soon be in a position to meet its social obligations and do more to stop the proliferation of hate messages on the site, according to an expert in tackling online antisemitism.

Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust said the social networking site was working hard to catch up with Facebook, Google and other internet companies which have already invested in technology and systems which stop people posting abusive messages.

Twitter’s UK boss, Tony Wang, this week apologised to women who have been the targets for misogynist and threatening messages. The company has updated its rules and said it will introduce measures which make it easier for users to directly report offensive tweets.

The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism’s (ICCA) task force on internet hate has worked closely with around a dozen social networking sites to tackle the problem.

The ICCA’s team of MPs, lawyers and experts have held high-level talks with YouTube, Google and Twitter, and visited Facebook’s headquarters in California in May last year.

A year-long legal row between the French Union of Jewish Students and Twitter ended last month when the company agreed to reveal the identities of users who posted antisemitic messages.

Mr Whine, CST’s director of Government and International Affairs, said there was growing concern among European governments over the legal implications of sites being used to incite hatred.

“There’s so much nasty stuff on the internet that the courts would be clogged up for 1,000 years if they prosecuted everyone. Instead the industry is looking at a situation where you can’t post this sort of stuff so easily,” he said.

“There’s so much pressure on Twitter because it is among the youngest sites and it is taking a little longer for them to realise they have social obligations as well as technological ones.

“Twitter just need to spend some money on it. Facebook and Google already have content managers and the technological means to challenge users. They have systems which throw up key words used in hate messages but also have teams that will act retrospectively.

“If you make a complaint about an antisemitic message they will review it and deal with it appropriately.”

Twitter’s change of tone came as comedian David Baddiel expressed his concern over the level of antisemitism on the site.

Jewish groups last week highlighted dozens of antisemitic messages targeted at Daniel Levy, chairman of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur.

Mr Baddiel told ITV News he had “noticed an incredible amount of antisemitic abuse on Twitter. I get it two or three times a day”.

He added: “An abuse button doesn’t mean you’re closing down free speech, it means you’re reporting them for, in your opinion, creating abuse,” he said. “People are just trying to create the same conditions online as we have in real life.”

Mr Baddiel also used his own Twitter account — which has more than 300,000 followers — to highlight a website which collates antisemitic abuse online.

Anti-Semitic Tweets, on the Tumblr microblogging site, re-publishes screenshots of offensive messages.

Last updated: 3:45pm, August 8 2013