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Calling Twitter to Account

Today in the House of Commons I raised a Point of Order to ask Speaker Bercow for his advice on how best to call Twitter to account for the abuse that has been directed at Luciana Berger MP via that medium.

In spite of a man having been jailed for abuse of Ms Berger the abuse has worsened and deepened in the same violent way. I suggested that if the medium was a newspaper the editor would be brought to the bar of the Commons to answer questions as John Junor was in 1957 and I asked the speaker for advice on how to handle cases relating to the internet for abuse against a member of this house continuing on daily basis.

John Bercow said that “the whole house will unite in concluding that the behaviour [to which Ms. Berger has been subjected] is despicable and beneath contempt” He added that “Decent people throughout the House and across the country will empathise entirely with the Hon. Lady and share my own assessment of the people responsible for this gratuitous abuse”.  

A 21-year-old man named Garron Helm, of Litherland, Liverpool had been jailed for four weeks for sending an antisemitic tweet to Luciana Berger MP, the Liverpool Wavertree MP and Shadow Public Health Minister. The offending message showed a yellow star superimposed onto Ms. Berger's head and was accompanied by the hashtag ‘Hitler was right’. It labelled Ms. Berger a "communist Jewess" and read: "you can always trust a Jew to show their true colours eventually". He tweeted under the moniker "Aethewulf" which translated from Old English, means 'Noble Wolf'. Helm pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message. Upon searching his home, the police had found Nazi memorobilia and far-right paraphernalia. It was the first time charges have been brought in the UK over an antisemitic tweet.

As a result of the successful prosecution, a number of far-right websites began a campaign of hate to target Berger. She has been subjected to extreme racist and antisemitic tweets, threats of violence and death.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Antisemitism has been and will continue working with internet providers at home and abroad towards better systems of reporting and in efforts to combat cyber hate.

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