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Wiley condemned over antisemitic social media outburst

By | Published on Monday 27 July 2020


Wiley has been widely condemned – by the music community and well beyond – after a lengthy string of antisemitic posts on Twitter and Instagram over the weekend. The rant saw him dropped by his management and distribution partner, and investigated by police. It also prompted calls for a change in what the law says about hate speech after the social media platforms were deemed to have acted too slowly in reacting to and removing the rapper’s more incendiary posts.

Wiley embarked on his lengthy and not entirely coherent outburst on Friday evening, the whole thing seemingly beginning with some common griping about the structure of record deals. He posted more than 250 times before Twitter temporarily banned him from its platform. He then returned on Saturday morning, picking up where he left off, before the social media firm instigated a longer seven day ban.

The posts saw Wiley share various antisemitic conspiracy theories, and on a number of occasions he referenced his manager John Wolff, who is Jewish. On Friday night, Wolff – like many others – expressed concern for the rapper’s mental health, saying: “I cannot support what he has written today [but] as someone who has known him for twelve years I know he does not truly feel this way”.

However, just before 1am on Saturday morning, Wolff tweeted: “Following Wiley’s antisemitic tweets today we at [A-List Management] have cut all ties with him. There is no place in society for antisemitism”. Responding to that in a video post on Instagram, Wiley dismissed Wolff’s statement, saying: “I cut ties with you, you fool. That’s why we’re here”.

A number of other music companies that work with – or have worked with – the rapper also issued statements in the wake of the posts. Ninja Tune subsidiary Big Dada, which has worked with Wiley a number of times, also condemned his comments, saying that it would donate its share of royalties earned on the albums it released with him to charity. The label said a statement: “We released some records by Wiley between 2007 and 2014. We fully condemn Wiley’s comments and royalties from those records will be donated to campaigns that fight antisemitism”.

Wiley’s most recent albums have been self-released, with distribution handled by the Warner Music-owned label services business ADA. Over the weekend it announced it was ending that partnership, stating: “We oppose antisemitism and any form of discrimination and racism. While Wiley controls and releases his music through his own label, he has a digital distribution agreement with ADA and we are terminating that agreement”.

As Wiley’s ranting continued, and especially after he posted tweets apparently inciting violence against Jewish people, many called on police to investigate – something Wiley then responded to by goading his critics while claiming to have done nothing wrong. However, the Metropolitan Police later confirmed that it was investigating the social media posts. Wiley also claimed in a number of Instagram videos that twelve police officers had come to his home.

There were also calls by critics and campaign groups for Twitter to delete the rapper’s account entirely, rather than simply removing the most problematic tweets and instigating the temporary ban. Many have criticised the platform, arguing that it was too slow to act, especially after groups that seek to combat antisemitism had explicitly notified the company of what Wiley had written.

Twitter insisted that it had enforced its abuse and harassment policies in response to Wiley’s tweets, but many reckon that simply wasn’t enough. Further tweets were subsequently removed, but much of what he had posted was still available online for most of yesterday. Meanwhile, on Instagram – which has also imposed a seven day ban on Wiley’s account – all of his posts currently remain online.

As criticism of the way Twitter and Instagram had responded grew, some also called for new legislation regarding how social media companies respond in such circumstances. So called platform responsibility, which includes things like this, is currently on the political agenda in Westminster.

And yesterday Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a tweet: “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 from their platforms”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also wrote a letter to Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and Twitter’s UK Managing Director Dara Nasr, saying: “When material which is clearly racist is shared on your platform, the response – its removal and the banning of those responsible – should be immediate”.

“You have invested in the technology and the people to make this possible”, he added, “and there should be no excuses. It takes minutes for content shared on your platform to reach an audience of millions. When someone influential shares hate speech, in that time it may have an impact on the views of many who look up to them”.

“Racism is not a grey area and there is no room for interpretation in the kind of statements made by Wiley”, he went on. “It is particularly disheartening that, at a time when social media has been playing such a positive role in amplifying the vital voices of the Black Lives Matter movement, we see again how it can be used to spread hatred and division”.

Beyond the debate around the role social media could and should play in regulating offensive and racist content online, some also speculated whether this weekend’s outburst would mark the end of Wiley’s music career. He released what he said would be his final album, ‘The Godfather 3’, in June – although he followed it with another, ‘Boasty Gang – The Album’, a couple of weeks later. He was also due to take part in Live Nation’s Drive-In concert tour, which was cancelled earlier this month.

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