UK
09/02/2015 08:06 GMT | Updated 09/02/2015 12:59 GMT

Anti-Semites Face 'Internet Asbos' For Spreading Hatred Online

People who spread racial hatred online could be given "internet Asbos" blocking them from Twitter and Facebook, under proposals to tackle anti-Semitism in Britain.

A group of MPs called on prosecutors to examine whether prevention orders similar to those which can be used to restrict sex offenders' online access could be applied to hate crimes.

They could be imposed to bar "determined" perpetrators from social media, the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism said in a report published on Monday.

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The panel, which was convened following a rise in attacks on Jews during the Israeli assault on Gaza in July and August, said social media platforms have "increasingly been used for the spread of anti-Semitism".

Its report said "Hitler" and "Holocaust" were among the top 35 key words used on Twitter last summer.

It identified abusive posts, including those using the hashtag "#Hitlerwasright", which was trending in July, as well as the "presence of Hitlerian themes and imagery on Facebook".

The report said: "There is an allowance in the law for banning or blocking individuals from certain aspects of internet communication in relation to sexual offences.

"Informal feedback we have received from policy experts indicates that this is a potential area of exploration for prosecutors in relation to hate crime.

"If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply."

holocaust memorial day

A Holocaust Memorial Day poster defaced

It comes after Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo admitted the site "sucks" at dealing with abuse and so-called trolling, vowing in an internal memo to "start kicking these people off right and left".

The MPs' report said: "Given the scale of social media content produced on a daily let alone minute by minute basis, we have some albeit limited sympathy for the companies that are responsible for hosting it.

"Whilst there is rightly an expectation on those companies to act as there is on government, police and prosecuting authorities, so too civil society has a crucial role to play."

The panel outlined measures to tackle online abuse as it called for "urgent action" from government, police, prosecutors and the Jewish community to combat a "disturbing" number of anti-semitic attacks.

Last week, the Community Security Trust (CST) - a charity that monitors anti-Semitism in Britain - showed there was a record number of anti-Semitic hate incidents in the UK last year.

The Metropolitan Police said there were 306 anti-Semitic incidents and 236 offences in London between April and November last year.

The issue has come under renewed scrutiny following the Paris terror attacks in which a Jewish supermarket was targeted.

Other proposals in the report:
  • Setting up a government fund to cover the costs of security at synagogues
  • Carrying out fresh research on identifying and explaining anti-Semitic themes in language
  • Establishing on independent council on anti-Semitism
  • Providing guidance for teachers on handling the Middle East conflict in the classroom

Labour MP John Mann said: "This report is a plan of action and a work programme for parliament and government.

"It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to take the leads in this fight. Whoever is in power... can be on notice that we expect it to be the basis of their work programme on tackling antI-Semitism and the new government will be held to account on its delivery."

David Cameron described the report as "hugely important", adding: "Tackling anti-Semitism goes right to the heart of what we stand for as a country."

Ed Miliband said the Paris attacks are a "stark reminder of the evil that anti-Seminitism can create", adding that the report is "timely and raises important areas for action to eradicate this awful form of hatred".

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe said the force have taken steps to provide "additional reassurance" to Jewish communities in recent weeks.

He said: "The best way of helping police is to report all hate crime. However, as this report indicates, we need a wider response than the police and criminal justice system can deliver alone, we need society to become as vocally intolerant of faith-hatred as it is of other forms of discrimination and a clearer understanding of where freedom of speech oversteps the mark."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis welcomed the report, saying it "could not come at a more opportune time".

He said: "The threat against the Jewish community is real and anxiety remains high following recent events in France and elsewhere."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "The Government has introduced a range of measures to ensure Britain provides a safe environment for Jewish people and these figures are a depressing reminder that there is still much work to be done.

Gideon Falter, Chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "Clearly education and interfaith work are important to ensure that more British people are not lured into antisemitism, but surely the greatest priority is to re-establish deterrence with zero-tolerance law enforcement, which requires police and CPS resources above all else, and a firm plan against antisemitic hate crime along the lines that we presented to the Home Secretary and which is now in advanced discussions."

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