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09.02.15

MPs call for racists to be banned from social media

Social media users who spread racial hatred online could be blocked from sites such as Twitter and Facebook under proposals to tackle rising anti-Semitism.

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism wants the Crown Prosecution Service to examine if prevention orders, similar to those used to restrict sex offenders’ internet access, could be used.

The panel of MPs, which was convened following a rise in incidents against Jews in the UK after the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza in July and August, said social media platforms have “increasingly been used for the spread of anti-Semitism”.

In response, the report says: “We have recommended further police resource, guidance for prosecutors, awareness raising about reporting mechanisms and most importantly exploration of the potential for using prevention orders to curb determined offenders.”

Last week, a Community Security Trust report showed a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, with the figure more than doubling to 1,168 in 2014.

Responding to the latest report, prime minister David Cameron described it as “hugely important”.

“Tackling anti-Semitism goes right to the heart of what we stand for as a country,” he added.

Metropolitan Police data supplied to the All-Party Panel revealed that between April and November last year 306 anti-Semitic incidents and 236 offences occurred in London. The issue has come under further scrutiny after terror attacks in Paris targeted a Jewish supermarket.

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

The report has also called on the government to:

  • Set up a government fund to cover the costs of security at synagogues.
  • Carry out fresh research on identifying and explaining anti-Semitic themes in language.
  • Establish an independent council on anti-Semitism.
  • Provide guidance for teachers on handling the Middle East conflict in the classroom.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles added that the government has introduced a range of measures to ensure Britain provides a safe environment for Jewish people, but the “a depressing reminder that there is still much work to be done.”

But he rallied, saying: “We remain staunchly committed to tackling anti-Semitism wherever it occurs and will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach. Those who perpetrate hate crimes of any kind will be punished with the full force of the law.”

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, said: “Clearly education and interfaith work are important to ensure that more British people are not lured into anti-Semitism, 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 anti-Semitic hate crime along the lines that we presented to the Home Secretary and which is now in advanced discussions.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the force had taken steps to provide “additional reassurance” to Jewish communities in recent weeks.

However, he added: “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.”

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