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MP Keith Vaz raises concern over 'the increase in Islamophobia and racism on sites such as Facebook and Twitter' with Attorney General

MP Keith Vaz raises concern over 'the increase in Islamophobia and racism on sites such as Facebook and Twitter' with Attorney General

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday January 07 2015

The Daily Mail draws attention to Leicester East MP, Keith Vaz’s question to the Attorney General in Parliament yesterday on whether the Government will meet with social media companies to encourage them to play a more active role in removing Islamophobic and racist material from social media platforms.

The Independent on Sunday last week revealed the inadequate safeguards and interventions applied by Facebook and Twitter leaving comments of an Islamophobic nature to remain on the sites.

Vaz raised the issue in Parliament yesterday with the Attorney General stating “Does the Attorney-General share my concern about the increase in Islamophobia and racism on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the inability of site owners to take the postings down? Will he have a meeting with the companies concerned to urge them to take down these postings, rather than face prosecution?”

The Attorney-General responded with “I do share that concern, and I am very happy to meet social media providers and others to discuss what more we can do. As the right hon. Gentleman says—I am sure the House generally agrees—it is important that everyone understands that social media is not a space where one can act with impunity. Social media providers, and all those who use social media, need to understand clearly that criminal law applies.”

The Attorney General’s remarks are certainly welcome given the Government’s lacklustre handling of Muslim concerns about the proliferation of anti-Muslim comments and postings online and the low threshold for prosecution both on account of the Crown Prosecution Guidelines on social media offences and the incitement to religious hatred legislation.

Last year the Lords Communications Committee undertook an inquiry into social media and criminal offences with a report published in July. The report does not mention Islamophobia once though anti-Semitism and racism are briefly covered and there are no examples cited of Islamophobic comments that have been posted online. The report does however acknowledge that Parliament may have a role to play to ensure that the CPS guidelines on prosecuting comments of a ‘grossly offensive’ nature does not “have the effect that few offences committed under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 will be prosecuted.”

There have been instances where the CPS has dropped a case claiming the ‘evidential standard’ has not been met. We hope the Lords’ recommendation on Parliament “determining the circumstances in which such offences should be prosecuted” results in more robust action against online Islamophobia in line with Vaz’s suggestion.

Vaz in the past sponsored an Early Day Motion calling for all police forces and England and Wales to record Islamophobia under a specific crime flag “to bring national uniformity in the recording of this crime and enable authorities to gather data that will aid in tackling this issue.”

Due credit to him for raising the issue of Islamphobia and racism online with the Attorney General.





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