Online Harms — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:48 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 2:48 pm, 7th October 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I pay tribute to Holly Lynch, a fellow Yorkshire MP, for securing the debate and for the content of her speech.

I will primarily focus on antisemitism online, particularly in my role as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on antisemitism. Before I do that, I want to raise the issue of financial scams, which many of us have been lobbied on. I had a very sad case of a constituent who was recently affected by such a scam. They are truly shocking and harmful scams that take place online. I hope that as the Government move forward in this space and introduce legislation, they will have scams in mind too.

We all know the history of the rise of antisemitism in recent years, both on the far left and on the far right in this country, and across Europe and the wider world. It is sad that antisemitism has continued to grow and to find space online during this period of coronavirus. We have seen a fall in the number of physical incidents, probably because of the lockdown, but sadly we have seen all too much of a continuation online. Between the start of this year and June the Community Security Trust recorded 344 online incidents. There would have been many more were it not for the narrow reporting parameters. We could easily be up into the millions if we could measure antisemitism under the broadest scope. Those examples are as shocking as what we all know. There are many Members present who are members of the all-party parliamentary group on antisemitism and who have taken a stand on the issue.

During the period in question there has been Zoombombing of Jewish events with vile racist antisemitic commentary. Sadly, there have been covid conspiracy theories growing online. It is disappointing, first, that there is an anti-mask movement—sadly that is across the world; but often that moves closely to antisemitism. A constituent recently contacted me about that, with some barking mad idea about masks and how terrible they are, to which I replied, “Next thing you will be telling me it is all the fault of the Rothschilds,” to which—no word of a lie—I received a response saying “Actually, the Rothschilds knew this was going to happen.” That is how this stuff spreads. It is a simple step from one to the other.