Britain’s youngest Jewish MP has described how Twitter’s response to an orchestrated campaign of antisemitism against her on its site was “frustratingly slow”.
Speaking in depth publicly for the first time about the abuse she suffered on social media a year ago, Luciana Berger revealed she was still receiving antisemitic tweets, as recently as last weekend.
At the height of last year’s weeks-long campaign , police calculated that Labour’s Liverpool Wavertree MP was subjected to 2,500 abusive messages in three days.
Ms Berger explained: “The tweets were incredibly abusive, they were threatening, they were distressing. They included images of my face superimposed on concentration camp victims, on very graphic porn images. They used the Star of David.”
She said the police response had been hampered by an initial reluctance to co-operate from social media sites . The online payment site PayPal did stop people sending donations to the neo-Nazi website based in the United States which was orchestrating the hate campaign.
Ms Berger said: “It did feel that progress was frustratingly slow. Twitter asked me to report any abusive tweets using what was then quite an onerous online system which took a few minutes to report every tweet.”
Although Twitter had taken steps in recent months to improve its reporting mechanisms, it was still unable to block racist images and was selective about the context of offensive words, the 34-year-old said.
“I was particularly concerned about the use of one antisemitic word which was used in a hashtag. I asked them to stop that word but was told they could not block it. There was no justifiable context in which that extremely antisemitic abuse would ever be used,” Ms Berger, who is Shadow Mental Health minister, said.
She added: “There is still an abundance of antisemitism on Twitter. I have received more over the weekend. I have a voice as an MP, but I do worry for that young teenage boy or girl who may be the subject of a barrage of hate messages. They may not have the ability to deal with it.”
Ms Berger was speaking in Parliament at a meeting about the threat of digital crime on Tuesday. Organised by groups including the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, the session heard Essex Chief Constable Steve Kavanagh warn that there had been a “seismic shift in the way society operates”, with the impact of online abuse challenging traditional policing methods.
Roisin Wood, of the Kick It Out organisation which combats racism in football, said Premier League players and clubs were regularly bombarded with racist, homophobic and misogynist abuse.
Italian striker Mario Balotelli, Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge received the most racist tweets, she said, before unveiling a list of the antisemitic terms most commonly seen.
The event was also attended by Claire Waxman, a Jewish mother of two who is helping to draft a new law aimed at helping victims of crime .