What were Wiley’s anti-semitic tweets about and how will he get punished?

By Harriet Piercy

Published Jul 27, 2020 at 01:21 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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On Friday, British grime artist Richard Cowie, mostly known as Wiley, made some truly shocking statements on both Twitter and Instagram. From anti-semitic tropes to false conspiracy theories about Jewish people, Wiley’s comments even compared them to the Ku Klux Klan. He is now facing hateful backlash, an investigation from the police and has been dropped by his management.

After posting these offensive messages about Jewish people on Friday and being temporarily banned by Twitter, the rapper continued his rant as soon as his account was unfrozen on Saturday. What did Wiley say exactly and how did Twitter and the rest of the world react?

What did Wiley say?

On Friday, the artist made many outrageous comments by amplifying common anti-semitic tropes and stereotypes as well as making an inflammatory comparison between the Jewish community and the Ku Klux Klan. Wiley tweeted that “There are 2 sets of people who nobody has really wanted to challenge #Jewish & #KKK but being in business for 20 years you start to understand why.”

Another of his reported tweets, which has now also been taken down read: “I don’t care about Hitler, I care about black people.” Wiley also claimed that he would challenge the whole Jewish community on his own, that he was not scared and could handle them. “Jewish would do anything to ruin a black man’s life but it won’t work with me I am a savage.”

What is anti-semitism?

Anti-semitism is a belief or behaviour, including prejudiced or stereotyped views, that is hostile towards Jews, just because they are Jewish.

Wiley’s rants had a huge amount of identitarianism too, which is a post-World War II European far-right political ideology asserting the right of Europeans and people of European descent to culture and territories claimed to belong exclusively to them.

What has Twitter done against Wiley’s comments?

Wiley was first banned from posting on Twitter for a few hours, but on Saturday morning he tweeted to his nearly 500,000 followers that he was “Back in action.” The social media giants were slow to take action against what was going on. The artist’s Twitter account has now been temporarily locked, while Instagram said it had deleted some of his content.

The pressure from people asking that the two platforms close his accounts permanently has been growing. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement: “There is no place for hate speech on Instagram. We have deleted content that violates our policies from this account and are continuing to investigate.”

Speaking about Twitter and Instagram’s way of dealing with Wiley’s hateful comments, Toni Vitale, partner and head of data protection at JMW Solicitors, said: “Twitter and Instagram have no liability themselves in the UK. In the UK, Electronic Commerce Regulation 19 says that an internet service ‘host’ is not liable for information on its platform, so long as the service it provides ‘consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service’ — and it has no knowledge of unlawful activity and acts quickly to remove the offending information when informed.”

Vitale added that “Wiley is currently being investigated by the police under hate crime and malicious communications legislation. He may claim ‘freedom of speech’ and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights does guarantee everyone’s right to freedom of expression. However, Article 17 states: ‘Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the Convention.’ This means any public comment aimed at destroying or limiting, for instance, a person’s right to a private and family life, or their peaceful enjoyment of property, or their enjoyment of rights in a way discriminatory of them compared to others, is not protected.”

Wiley’s now ex-manager John Woolf confirmed that the Twitter account, which is not verified, belongs to the London-born rapper. In a tweet posted on Friday evening that is no longer visible, Woolf initially said he was “talking to him privately.” He also said that, having known Wiley for 12 years, he knows “he does not truly feel this way.” Woolf later tweeted that “Following Wiley’s antisemitic tweets today we at @A_ListMGMT have cut all ties with him. There is no place in society for antisemitism.”

Priti Patel’s comment about Wiley

Priti Patel, the UK’s home secretary, said on twitter that posts were anti-Semitic and “abhorrent”. “Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred from their platforms,”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has also stepped up by writing a letter to the two companies saying that their response was not fast enough. “It takes minutes for content shared on your platform to reach an audience of millions. When someone influential shares hate speech, in that time it may have an impact on the views of many who look up to them.”

What next?

The pungency of racism is undoubtedly real, relevant, and recurring daily. History cannot be reversed, but it is our duty to make sure it does not repeat itself. Wiley has permanently tarnished not only his reputation and his career but his life. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, we need to understand that fighting racism equals fighting against all kinds of hatred.

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