MPs have blasted Twitter over failure to tackle anti-Semitism

Lynsey Barber
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Twitter has been singled out by MPs over failing to tackle the issue (Source: Getty)

Twitter has incurred the ire of a group of MPs who have accuse it of not doing enough to stop the "pernicious problem" of anti-Semitic hate speech.

The struggling social network was singled out by MPs on the home affairs select committee as acting as "an inert host for vast swathes of anti-Semitic hate speech and abuse" in its report on the matter published on Sunday.

"The onus should not be on the victim to monitor their account for ongoing abuse and report it to the company," the report concluded, noting its revenues of $2.2bn.

"Twitter has approximately 3,800 employees around the world. Even if a third of them work in the company’s security and enforcement team, that would equate to around one employee for every 82,000 active users, or one employee for every 130,000 tweets per day. It must devote more resources and employ more staff to enable it to identify hateful and abusive users in a proactive manner, and it must introduce more rigorous tools for detecting and filtering abuse."

The committee called on Twitter to make several changes to try and fight abuse online, including expanding the number of proactive staff it has identifying and suspending or removing accounts and letting users block certain terms used in messages.

Read more: Google, Facebook and Twitter blasted over failure to tackle extremism

Twitter, which has a policy against attacks or threats based on things like race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender and religious affiliation, said it was continuing to tackle the issue.

"Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society. People must feel safe in order to speak freely and there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate," said a Twitter spokesperson.

"In tandem with actioning hateful conduct that breaches Twitter’s Rules, we also leverage the platform’s incredible capabilities to empower positive voices, to challenge prejudice and to tackle the deeper root causes of intolerance. We look forward to further constructive dialogue between government, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”

The committee also criticised the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and accused him of a lack of consistent leadership on the issue and slammed a report by Baroness Chakrabarti into anti-Semitism within the Labour party. It also called on government and political parties across the board to adopt an amended definition of anti-Semitism to promote "zero-tolerance" but still allow free speech on Israel and Palestine.It also noted a disparity in the way anti-Semitic crime was recorded by police.

However, the criticism of Twitter comes as the social network struggles to overcome widespread perceptions that it is failing to address the larger issue of abuse on the platform and as it attempts to counter a lack of growth.

Read more: Is Twitter becoming a broadcaster?

Tech giant Salesforce pulled out of a potential purchase of the platform before the weekend, sinking any hope that a takeover deal would be agreed.

Interested parties connected to a potential bid had included high-fliers such as Google and Disney, buoying investor confidence and sending shares to their highest this year.

However, amid diminished hope of a deal, shares plunged to $16.88 at the end of the week.

Returned chief executive Jack Dorsey cited efforts to crackdown on trolling and abuse as part of his efforts to turn the company around.

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