Twitter fails to act over Ed Miliband lookalike’s anti-Israel death threats

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5th January 2012

This is a crosspost (very cross) from The Jewish Chronicle Online (original source)

I’ll let the article speak for itself.  With sincere thanks to Martin Bright

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Twitter fails to act over Ed Miliband lookalike’s anti-Israel death threats

The social networking site, Twitter, has provoked fury after refusing to act against a user responsible for a stream of death threats and antisemitic abuse.

Shereef Abdallah, who advertises himself as an Ed Miliband lookalike and claims to have worked on the Labour leader’s election campaign, began by targeting people identified as supporters of Tony Blair. He has since widened his online attacks to anyone who challenges him.

As the violence of his language escalated, Mr Abdallah turned his fire on a young British Israeli woman, “Rachel”, who had criticised his description of his opponents as Nazis.

Using often explicit pornographic language, Mr Abdallah made direct threats such as: “I will hunt you down & fight you min by min. hr by hr. day by day. wk by wk. month by month. year by year for the rest of yr life.”

He later threatened to beat her to death, noting that this was “a promise” he would carry out. The police have now taken up the case after a former Labour Party press officer intervened – only to be threatened with having his throat cut.

Mr Abdallah, who has worked as a volunteer at the office of Glenda Jackson and blogged for the Labour Party affiliate organisation Young Fabians, started his campaign with attacks on “Julia”, a young woman who runs the Blairite blog Julie’s Think Tank. The JC has been advised not to reveal the identity of the women involved as there is a risk that Mr Abdallah may turn his violent, often sexual fantasies into real acts of violence. Many of his tweets end with the sign-off “R.I.P.”

The probation officers’ union, Napo, which is running a campaign to toughen up the laws on stalking, referred the tweets to a psychological profiler who helps the police identify violent offenders. She concluded that there was a 30 per cent chance that Mr Abdallah would turn his threats into real acts of violence.

When a Twitter user known as @blairsupporter reported the abuse received from Mr Abdallah, Twitter responded: “We have investigated the reported account and have found that it’s not in violation of the Twitter rules at this time. We have a policy against violent threats, but the content of this account lacks the specificity to meet the criteria of an actionable threat.”

A spokeswoman from Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” department suggested contacting dealing with the matter locally. She continued: “Websites do not have the ability to investigate and assess a threat, bring charges or prosecute individuals.”

But the Community Security Trust spokesman, Mark Gardner, said Twitter’s position set a dangerous precedent: “These tweets are a clear example of racist intimidation and threats. We cannot have a situation where modern media is exempt from basic legal protocol.”

Harry Fletcher, who is running Napo’s campaign on stalking law reform, said: “The threat to these women is real, frightening and could escalate. Social media companies need to wake up to their responsibilities and deal with this as a matter of urgency.”

John Mann MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said: “Individuals continue to peddle hate online. This highlights the ever-emerging problem with Twitter and it is very troubling that they refuse to act.”

Mr Abdallah, who has used the names @Sheik74k and @LFCSheikKD on Twitter, bombarded “Julia” with messages such as: “Your nightmare is just starting, Julia, it will only get worse for you every day 24/7 till you leave twitter”; “Zionists can’t save you, Julia, the only way to stop it is to leave twitter. Racist tory anti Islamic scum”; “I fear nothing not even death so will fight you and your ilk to my last breath.” Most chilling of all was the message: “… are you still alive FFS? You will be next after I end [Rachel]…. that’s a promise. sleep tight”.

The young blogger became seriously concerned when Mr Abdallah turned up at her university.

To “Rachel”, he wrote in capital letters: “I WILL BEAT YOU TO DEATH… R.I.P; THIS IS NOT A THREAT… THAT IS A PROMISE.”

The Fabian Society said Mr Abdallah had falsely claimed to be a member of the Young Fabians when he posted as a blogger on its website. His post was subsequently removed.

Mr Abdallah refused to answer the JC’s questions.

● A Jerusalem-based lawyer has claimed that Twitter is providing services to groups such as Hizbollah.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who specialises in cases against terror groups, said that the company could be violating US law.

Although Hizbollah does not have an official Twitter account, that of the Al-Manar TV network, which Hizbollah controls, has 7,500 followers.

● Twitter users in Israel are only able to select “Palestinian Territories” when listing their location.

Users can choose a location using their mobile phones. But anyone wanting to choose Israel finds a drop-down menu which offers only “Palestinian Territories”.

Twitter says: “We list countries where we’ve launched SMS with at least one operator. We’ve been in touch with operators in Israel but haven’t yet been able to launch SMS there. So it’s not included on the list.”

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NOTE: To whomsoever it may concern, I have several days  of Mr Abdallah’s tweets saved and able to be viewed or forwarded on request.  These include printscreens going back several weeks of many particularly virulent, violence-threatening tweets.

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Comment samples follow from the Ban Blair-Baiting petition

1. I completely agree with everything that has been said on this website. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair worked tirelessly and selflessly in the interests of the people, and continues to do so today. He is primarily a humanitarian, and doesn’t deserve any of the vitriol that has been levelled at him. He was a great Prime Minister, is a thoroughly decent man; and should in my opinion, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his outstanding work. – David Miliband (New Labour’s heir) for the next PM!

2. Best politician in Britain by a long way.

3. Fully support the petition. The criticism of Mr Blair has gone way beyond anything acceptable and seems to be carried out mainly by those who are looking to wash their hands of any involvement in supporting the Iraq war at the time. It is very easy to be ‘wise after the event’ and to make assumptions about how much Mr Blair knew or did not know before the war. In these people’s eyes, the former PM is guilty whatever the evidence.

4. An excellent petition this for a very undervalued PM. A PM who is not only the best in my lifetime but my parents lifetime too!

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