MPs urge crackdown on internet hatred

By Jessica Elgot, January 27, 2011
Follow Jessica on Twitter
John Mann

John Mann

MPs have urged the European Union to take the lead in cracking down on antisemitic sites from far right and Islamist groups.

At the first major debate on antisemitism last Thursday at Westminster Hall, John Mann, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, said he was frustrated with progress on the issue.

He said: "Is it beyond the EU to have some common standards relating to the internet that would greatly enhance what has happened in this country? "

But he warned: "Despite the history of the origins of the EU, the Commission has never, ever seen antisemitism as part of its remit, which must change. Addressing the internet would be a good start."

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is preparing a ministerial conference on dealing with internet hate. Noting a US initiative to challenge Google and Microsoft over antisemitism online, Mr Mann observed: "I am certain that if our colleagues in the US Congress can organise such meetings, we will in some way be able to get representatives, too."

His call was backed by LibDem MP Sir Alan Beith, who said: "Internet service providers will have to do a lot more to prevent the internet and social networking tools, which are of such immense value to so many people in the world, from becoming a source of terrible evil and a means by which evil is spread."

Mr Mann pointed to the success of prosecuting Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, convicted of inciting racial hatred by posting stories such as"Tales of the Holohoax." It was the first case the Crown Prosecution Service brought involving the diffusion of race hate via the internet.

Louise Ellman raised concerns that those sites which went unchallenged were generally Islamist, coming from places like Saudi Arabia,, rather than those on the far right.

But Denis MacShane said he did not believe antisemitism online was confined to extremist websites, saying: "I could bring to the House cartoons and articles in our main newspapers - our liberal newspapers, our left newspapers and our conservative newspapers - that precisely draw that moral equivalence between Israel and Nazism, which attempt to typecast all Jews as supporters of Israel who thus have a double loyalty."

Tom Watson was greatly concerned by rhetoric in the media, particulary that of TV host Glenn Beck of Fox News, whose shows are available in the UK. Last year, he noted, "Mr Beck and his guests invoked Hitler 147 times. Nazis, an additional 202 times. Fascism or fascists, 193 times. The Holocaust got 76 mentions, and Joseph Goebbels got 24."

A CST spokesman said: "This was an excellent debate that showed cross-party support for tackling antisemitism and a real understanding of our community's concerns. We must not forget or underestimate just how many good friends we have fighting our corner."

Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011