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Board of Deputies urges Facebook to wake up as 'bombs and bullets' threat made online

07 May 2020

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl, who is also a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, has called on Facebook to take direct action to counter threats on the platform after a comment suggesting that the Board of Deputies should be bombed was left on a post from a former Labour Party member. 

“This past weekend, a former Labour member who was thrown out of the Labour Party last year and who has repeatedly baited the Jewish community continued her hateful rhetoric against the Board of Deputies, making a veiled threat that ‘if you want race conflict, you are going the right way’.

“Normally, we would ignore such statements as the ramblings of someone who has long been discredited, but this time her statements led to a direct threat to our organization, with one respondent on another of her posts threatening to ‘bomb’ us. He subsequently doubled down on this statement, calling for ‘bombs and bullets’ upon the Board of Deputies. Both the police and the Community Security Trust are looking into this incident.

“This situation would be worrying at the best of times, but what made it a thousand times worse is that, when alerted to this situation, Facebook took no action to remove the account of either the man who made the direct threat, or the original poster who incited it. In fact, the member of staff who reported it to Facebook initially received a response telling him that they would not be removing the comment threatening to bomb us because ‘it doesn’t go against any of our Community Standards.’

“While the statement itself was eventually removed after we intervened directly with Facebook staff, it should not have taken this level of knowledge of people in the company to receive a response. Not all users should have to have a contact at Facebook to have action taken on incitement to violence. What this incident demonstrates, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that either Facebook’s Community Standards are hopelessly flawed or those employees responsible for implementing them are extremely ill-trained; or possibly both. We note that the inflammatory post that led to the threat, and the accounts of both people concerned are still available.

“We live in a climate where Jewish institutions have been attacked in the very recent past. We do not understand why a social media company is somehow so reluctant to take action on direct threats against a Jewish communal organization.

“We know, too, that despite the very real threat of attacks on Muslims and other communities across the world, Islamophobia and other forms of hate speech have also been allowed to propagate on Facebook.

“We would urge Facebook to wake up and realize that there is a difference between free speech on the one hand, and incitement and hate speech on the other.”