Police investigate grime artist Wiley's antisemitic tweets

Rapper temporarily banned from Twitter and dropped by management firm after tirade

Police are investigating after the grime artist Wiley posted a tirade of antisemitic comments on Twitter and Instagram.

The musician has been dropped by his management company and temporarily banned from posting on Twitter after a series of social media posts were made on accounts belonging to him on Friday and Saturday.

A Metropolitan police spokesperson told the Guardian: “We have received a number of reports relating to alleged antisemitic tweets posted on social media.

“The Met takes all reports of antisemitism extremely seriously. The relevant material is being assessed.”

Wiley was first banned from posting on Twitter for a few hours, but on Saturday morning he tweeted to his nearly 500,000 followers that he was “Back in action”.

He then continued his antisemitic rant, before posting a screenshot on Instagram less than two hours later, showing he had again been blocked from posting on the site, this time for seven days.

Twitter has been widely criticised for allowing a number of the posts – in which Wiley described Jewish people as “cowards” and “snakes” – to remain visible and for not removing Wiley’s account. The majority of his tweets were still visible on Saturday afternoon.

Earlier, the Campaign Against Antisemitism asked police to investigate the content of the posts and called for Wiley’s accounts to be shut down “to prevent further outpouring of anti-Jewish venom”.

The musician’s manager, John Woolf, from A-List Management, wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning: “Following Wiley’s antisemitic tweets today we at A-ListMGMT have cut all ties with him. There is no place in society for antisemitism.”

He had earlier said he did not support or condone Wiley’s posts but that he would speak to him privately and “help educate him”.

One post on an unverified Twitter account in Wiley’s name, which Woolf confirmed to the PA Media news agency belonged to the star, read: “I would challenge the whole world of Jewish community on my own I am not scared I can handle them.”

He went on to advance an antisemitic trope, that Jewish people control business interests, in a comparison with the Ku Klux Klan. “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.”

Wiley, known as the “godfather of grime” and whose real name is Richard Cowie, received an MBE for services to music in 2018.

A tweet posted in November from the account of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, thanking the grime artist for his support in the general election, was deleted on Saturday morning.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “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.”

The comedian David Baddiel said: “Twitter, in its failure to act, when they act pretty fast in suspensions normally, enhances and intensifies the idea that hate speech against Jews is a lesser, more insignificant form of the category, maybe not hate speech at all.”

The Labour MP Neil Coyle said Wiley’s management appeared 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”.

In a statement issued on Friday, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism 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.

“We have additionally asked Twitter and Facebook, which owns Instagram, to close down his accounts which have hundreds of thousands of followers, to prevent further outpouring of anti-Jewish venom.”

They said they would contact the Cabinet Office to ask that Wiley’s MBE be revoked.

The spokesperson said: “Wiley has many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and we have seen today that many of them truly believe the unhinged hatred that he is spreading.

“We are treating this as a very serious matter which must be met with the firmest of responses.”

A Twitter spokesperson said: “Abuse and harassment have no place on our service and we have policies in place – that apply to everyone, everywhere – that address abuse and harassment, violent threats, and hateful conduct.

“If we identify accounts that violate any of these rules, we’ll take enforcement action. This account has been temporarily locked for violating our hateful conduct policy.”


Jessica Murray

The GuardianTramp

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