British MPs: Weigh Banning anti-Semitic Social Media Posts

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A passerby carries a Union Flag umbrella past a pro-Palestine protest outside London's Houses of Parliament, Oct. 13, 2014. British lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution recognizing Palestine.Credit: Reuters

British prosecutors should seriously consider restricting online hate speech, U.K. lawmakers said in a February report on anti-Semitism.

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism suggests treating people who post tweets or Facebook updates seen as reflecting racial or religious hatred in a similar way to sex offenders, whose online access is restricted under U.K. law.

"Dialogue both offline and online is important, but the increase in anti-Semitism on social media is a serious and growing concern," said the inquiry committee, which was established after a rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the summer's war between Israel and Gaza.

"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," the MPs said.

"We further recommend that hate crime guidance material on grossly offensive speech be reviewed to clarify what amounts to 'criminal acts' that 'will be prosecuted.'"

The report comes as the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain hit a record high, according to the U.K.'s Community Security Trust, a British organization aimed at ensuring the safety of Britain's Jewish community. It recorded 1,168 incidents across the country in 2014, more than double the number documented the year before.

Meanwhile, recent Campaign Against Antisemitism surveys found that 45 percent of all Britons hold anti-Semitic views, and that 54 percent of British Jews fear that Jews have no future in Great Britain.

The parliamentary inquiry said "Hitler" and "the Holocaust" were among the top 35 keywords on Twitter during the time it examined social media, and said data analysis indicates a tenfold increase in online anti-Semitism over the past three years.

In 2011, 12 of 609 anti-Semitic incidents recorded by Community Security Trust were insults on social media, the inquiry committee said. That number soared to 130 out of 541 incidents in July and August of 2014.

"Social media was raised more often than traditional media as a cause for concern during the conflict by those we spoke to," the report said. "Of major concern was the worldwide trend of the term ‘Hitler Was Right’ as a ‘hashtag’ during July, and also the terms ‘Hitler Did Nothing Wrong’ and ‘Kill the Jews’ on Twitter."

Other tweets cited in the report include "The Jews now are worse than they were in Hitler’s time no wonder he wanted to get rid, right idea!!" and "If anyone still believes jews have a 'right' to exist on this planet, you are a f****** moron."

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