London, Aug 18 (PTI) A group of leaders representing the major faiths of the UK have united to issue a call for the government to urgently bring forward a planned 'Online Harms' legislation to combat online hate crimes.
In a joint statement, leaders representing Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths demand that the law is needed to establish accountability for the social media companies when they facilitate abuse and hate online.
It comes in response to events of recent weeks when Twitter faced a 48-hour boycott after it was accused of failing to remove antisemitic abuse by musician Wiley on social media.
“Today, we are calling on the UK government to bring forward the Online Harms legislation as a matter of urgency. The UK government promised to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online but their flagship Online Harm legislation continues to be delayed,” reads the joint statement signed by 10 faith leaders on Monday.
“This legislation must take us away from a reliance on a reactive approach where the rules are set by the companies. The social media companies must be held to account when they design their services in a way that encourages and facilitates hate,” it adds.
Grime music artist Wiley shared several offensive posts on Twitter last month, some of these were deleted but Twitter was criticised for taking time to act and leaving some posts up. The faith leaders said that they want to flag that social media companies are falling short when tackling racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-Hindu hate.
“Our community experiences anti-Hindu sentiments online every day. If the powerful social media platforms allow hateful content to be monetised and encouraged to attract clicks, this needs to be addressed, not just by their own guidelines that give a gloss of respectability, but by true accountability,” said Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary of Hindu Council UK.
Laura Marks, Co-founder of the Nisa-Nashim network of Jewish Muslim women, said: 'The horrific antisemitic abuse we have seen on social media in recent weeks is an important reminder that the internet is currently not a safe space for everyone.
“Social media companies have shown time and time again that their own rules are not enough to prevent online hate and so the UK government must do what it promised and make the UK the safest place to be online by bringing forward their Online Harms legislation urgently.' The UK government has put forward a White Paper to work towards a new system of “accountability and oversight” for tech companies and set out a new regulatory framework for online safety.
The faith leaders demand that action is needed on that White Paper so that the issue of online hate can be covered by law.
Iman Atta, the Director of Tell MAMA [Measuring Anti-Muslim Hate] and Faith Matters added: “We have seen and heard first-hand how online harms have affected the mental, emotional and psychological well-being of people whom have been targeted by anti-Muslim hatred and other types of racism and hatred.
“This is why social media companies have got to step up and stop playing the 'have a few credit opportunities to promote your work' freebies to keep organisations on-side and compliant and truly act with swift speed and real leadership on tackling hate on their platforms. They must be held to account.” PTI AK PMS PMS