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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
24 Feb 2024
Patrick Sawer; Jeylin Mehmet

BBC ‘aired social media posts by anti-Semitic users’

The BBC has been accused of allowing its Arabic channel to broadcast posts by social media users who praised Hitler and promoted conspiracy theories about Jews.

BBC Arabic reproduced the comments, claiming that Facebook censors support for Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The comments were broadcast during a studio discussion by BBC Arabic’s Talking Point programme, which asked whether Facebook hides accounts that support Palestinians.

Several social media users quoted by the channel during the discussion, originally broadcast on Dec 22, have now been accused of having previously posted virulently anti-Semitic comments.

Comments were shown on screen from seven social media users alleging that their posts about the conflict had been hidden.

One claimed: “The Facebook platform turned into a brutal and racist platform, supporting the barbarity of the West and the usurping entity [Israel]”.

Another user stated: “We all suffer from our accounts being slow and the lack of interaction with our posts. The Zionist algorithms of meta restricts account which interact and are solidary [solidarity] with the Palestinians.”

‘An arrogant religious group’

Camera UK, a media campaign group that lobbies for a fair representation of Israel, claimed five out of the seven social media users selected by the BBC had previously posted “blatantly anti-Semitic content”.

On Oct 26, less than three weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel, one of the users featured in Talking Point had stated on X, formerly Twitter: “Yesterday the world stood with Hitler and today the world stands with Netanyahu, even though Netanyahu did something worse than what Hitler did.”

Two days later, the user stated: “The announced numbers of Jews in Europe during the Second World War and the numbers of Holocaust victims are greatly exaggerated.”

Another user featured on the programme wrote on X on Nov 14: “The Jews are an arrogant religious group . .  they deceived the West and deluded them with the myths of their distorted Torah that Palestine is their Holy Land.”

The poster was quoted by BBC Arabic as having complained that his X account was suspended for 11 hours “because of tweets about the Zionist entity”. He had earlier posted on Nov 12: “He [Hitler] was right in every word he said about the Jews. I wish he had not left any of them.”

Another member of the public quoted on Talking Point, referred to Freemasons in a tweet on Oct 23 as “the largest organisation that controls the policies of the whole world  ... which does not recognise religions other than the Jewish religion because it is the legitimate child of Zionism.”

‘Committed to achieving due impartiality’

A Camera spokesman said: “Clearly, none of these users can seriously be viewed as any kind of authority as for what legitimate content in social media should look like. 

The spokesman conceded that “the BBC cannot always look into users whose posts it platforms in real time” but added that the fact that five out of seven authors had made anti-Semitic statements “says something about Arabic social media discourse as a whole and the need to restrict some of it – something that this programme went to great lengths to avoid any critical debate about”.

Camera said the studio panel, made up of three speakers, failed to challenge the suggestion that pro-Palestinian comments should never be blocked or moderated by social media platforms, even when containing hate speech about Jews or tropes about Zionists controlling the media.

The organisation said: “Not one reflected on the hatred and violence with which Arabic online discourse is known to be saturated.”

A BBC spokesman said: “Like all our services, BBC News Arabic is committed to achieving due impartiality across its output. As Camera acknowledges, it is not possible to vet the entire social media accounts of every single viewer whose experiences are briefly featured on a discussion programme.”

The row comes a week after Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, acknowledged anti-Semitism at the corporation for the first time and promised to stamp out “abhorrent” abuse.

In an email to all staff, seen by The Telegraph, he urged colleagues to report anti-Jewish and other racist behaviour, promising that “the senior team and I are listening”.