Musician Wiley has been banned from Twitter for an antisemitic rant - here's what happened

Monday, 27th July 2020, 2:08 pm
Updated Monday, 27th July 2020, 2:08 pm
The rapper's comments have garnered huge backlash as well as a temporary ban from his social media accounts (Photo: Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, British rapper Wiley posted a thread of antisemitic comments on his Twitter account.

He has since been banned from the social media platform for seven days.

The incident has seen calls for social media platforms to tighten their policies around hate speech - including from Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Wiley?

Wiley is the stage name of British rapper Richard Kylea Cowie Jr.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the British underground music scene and considered a key figure in the world of grime.

He is often referred to as the “Godfather of Grime”.

In the 2018 New Years Honours, he received an MBE for his services to music.

What did Wiley say on Twitter?

Taking to Twitter, Wiley shared various conspiracy theories and insulted Jewish people, accusing them of being “snakes” and suggesting that they are “at war” with black people.

He wrote: “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. Red Necks Are the KKK and Jewish people are the Law… Work that out.”

He also tweeted: “If you work for a company owned by 2 Jewish men and you challenge the Jewish community in anyway of course you will get fired.”

Amongst his tweets, Wiley also wrote that Jewish people should “hold some corn” which is a slang expression meaning “to be shot”. He added: “Jewish community you deserve it.”

As a result of his tweets, Wiley’s management company, A-List Management have “cut all ties” with the rapper.

John Woolf, who is Jewish, wrote on Twitter: “Following Wiley’s antisemitic tweets today we at @A_ListMGMT have cut all ties with him. There is no place in society for antisemitism.”

However, in a video posted on Instagram, Wiley claimed it was he who cut ties with his management, not the other way around.

Why was Twitter accused of “ignoring antisemitism”?

While a number of tweets from the musician have now been removed, and the 41-year-old has been issued with a seven-day ban from the site, his tweets remained visible for 12 hours after first being posted.

He was initially banned from Twitter for only a few hours, but on Saturday (25 July) morning he tweeted to his almost 500,000 followers that he was “back in action” and continued with his antisemitic tweets.

He was then banned again for seven days.

Twitter has been accused of “ignoring antisemitism”, with various MPs criticising the company for allowing the tweets to remain online for as long as they did.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said on Saturday: “Just seen all the Wiley stuff. Why on earth have @Twitter left up such blatant antisemitism and hatred? It hits all the dangerous beats, Jews get things you don’t get, they are in control, they think they're better… This is dangerous stuff. Surely it should come down.”

Fellow Labour MP Neil Coyle also wrote: “His management appear able to act quicker than @Twitter emphasising, once again, that legislation (including the Online Harms Bill) should ensure social media platforms are not used to spread hate.”

The government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, John Mann, said that the tweets “demonstrated precisely why the law needs changing to hold them to reasonable account”.

Wiley has also been issued a seven day block on his Instagram account as well.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, issued a statement, saying that there is “no place for hate speech on Instagram”.

How did Priti Patel respond?

Home Secretary Priti Patel took to Twitter to demand a “full explanation” from Twitter and Instagram as to why the posts from the rapper were not dealt with faster.

She wrote: “The antisemitic posts from Wiley are abhorrent. They should not have been able to remain on Twitter and Instagram for so long and I have asked them for a full explanation.

“Social media companies must act much faster to remove such appalling hatred for their platforms.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also said that the steps taken by both Twitter and Instagram were not enough.

Is Wiley being investigated by the police?

A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said: “Our crime unit has reported this matter to the Metropolitan Police Service as we consider that Wiley has committed the offence of incitement to racial hatred, which can carry a substantial prison sentence.”

The spokesperson also said that the CAA have contacted the honours forfeiture committee at the Cabinet Office to ask “that Wiley’s MBE be revoked”.

On Saturday, London’s Metropolitan Police Service said: “We have received a number of reports relating to alleged anti-Semitic tweets posted on social media.

“The MET takes all reports of anti-Semitism extremely seriously. The relevant material is being assessed. Anyone with further information can report it online or via 101 with reference 4219917/20.”

Why are people boycotting social media?

Following the Wiley incident, politicians, celebrities and other high profile figures are participating in a 48 hour boycott of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter today (27 July).

Both sites were heavily criticized for their slow response to the anti-semitic posts by Wiley.

The hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate has begun trending on Twitter, with users announcing their support for the boycott.

Many tweeting about their involvement in the boycott are also including a picture that has been widely circulated which features an emoji with a zipped mouth and reads: “Silence talks. Starting Monday 27th at 9am leave Twitter for 48 hours to protest their inaction on anti-Jewish racism #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate”

The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) tweeted: “We are joining a 48 hour @Twitter @Instagram walk out from 9am today. Holocaust denial, racism and hate have no place in society and no place on social media platforms.

“@Twitter and @Instagram need to do better. #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.”

Actor Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter franchise, The OA) tweeted his support, writing: “I’m in. Or Out, rather. I’m so used to antisemitic hatred, caricature and conspiracy theories from governments, looneytunes, the left, right and reasonable middle that I long ago lost hope for change online or in life. Maybe there’s a window. #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.”

MP Jess Phillips was also among those who tweeted support for the movement.She said: "From 9am tomorrow I am joining the boycott of @Twitter for 48 hours to protest their inaction on antisemitism. This platform has been a safe haven for hate speech for too long. @jack must act #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate"

Conservative MP Chris Clarkson also tweeted: I’ll be joining the 48 hour walkout. @Twitter has failed to act in the face of blatant hate speech and racism. Users agree to abide by certain terms & conditions as community members but those rules aren’t being applied consistently or robustly enough. #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate.”