Artist’s pressure forces Twitter to take minimal action against anti-Semitism

Painted anti-Semitic and hateful tweets outside Twitter’s headquarters in Hamburg have forced the company to take steps, albeit negligible, against hate on its social media platform.

Twitter on Wednesday deleted three anti-Semitic tweets, suspended four accounts and withheld another seven accounts in Germany, after an Israeli-born artist exposed its inaction on hundreds of anti-Semitic tweets he has received over the past months.

AP found that 15 other tweets, including some containing anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-black comments, were still online.

The artist, Shahak Shapira, became tired of seeing hateful tweets ignored by Twitter and managed to get the social network to remove or hide some of them — by spray-painting the offending posts in front of the company’s German headquarters.

Shapira reported some 300 tweets containing possible illegal content to Twitter over a period of about six months but the social networking site ignored him. This occurred at a time when Twitter was arguing against tough new legislation in Germany, insisting it was already taking sufficient measures against hate speech.

Shapira painted almost 30 of the offending tweets on the street in front of Twitter’s Hamburg offices Friday because “flagging things clearly wasn’t enough.”

“I had to spray it on the ground,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Shapira said he never got any kind of direct response from Twitter, either before or after the stunt.

A video of his protest received over 100,000 views in 48 hours and clearly got the company’s attention.

‘It Would be Nice if Twitter Had Reacted’

Shapira said he doesn’t advocate mass censorship, but wants Twitter to take the issue of online abuse seriously. A study commissioned by the German government found that Twitter lagged behind other social networks such as Facebook and YouTube in responding to complaints about hate speech.

“It would be nice if Twitter had reacted,” said Shapira, whose previous work includes questioning the way young people confront the Holocaust. “What I want is that these flagged posts are reviewed the way Facebook does. What Facebook does isn’t perfect, but at least they are making an effort.”

Twitter refused to publicly comment on the stunt after first being contacted by the AP about it on Monday. Instead, the company cited its guidelines which include a ban on promoting “violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity.”

Among the spray-painted tweets that remain online is one directed at Shapira from a user who references the artist’s Jewish identity and expresses hope that he should bump into a group of criminals on a dark evening.

Under pressure after Germany passed a law last month that could see social networks fined up to 50 million euros ($58.6 million) if they fail to swiftly remove illegal content, Facebook announced plans this week for a second office in Germany to review posts for illegal content.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff