The abuse on social media such as twitter and facebook is well known despite the so-called clamp-down from these companies to remove racist and anti-Semitic material. References to gas, ovens, Hitler was right and all sorts of blood libels are common especially when users target Jews.
The question is, does one respond or just ignore it. The columnist Melanie Philips has sometimes replied to abusive tweets with some great creative lines purposely showing up the perpetrators to be complete ignorant racist fools.
But whether one takes the time to reply, which by the way some politicians and well-known celebrities do, one would expect your employer or governing body to at least recognise that you have been targeted and stand by you.
Mark Lewis is a media solicitor who shot to fame in 2011 when he took on the Milly Dowler phone-hacking scandal by tabloid newspapers on a no-win no-fee basis.
He has since become a great supporter of Israel and the Jewish community and it was precisely because of this that Mark was subjected to a 3-year bombardment of thousands of abusive anti-Semitic messages including a picture of his face superimposed on photographs at the Auschwitz crematorium. They also mocked his multiple sclerosis neurological illness and Mark has subsequently been forced to live with enhanced security at his home and office.
But the Solicitors Regulation Authority charged Mr Lewis with sending offensive and profane messages saying he lacked integrity and failed to uphold the confidence of his profession. He was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs this week.
Mark’s counsel noted that he had only responded to a tiny proportion of the abusive messages sent and that because of his MS, was on strong medication at the time. He, therefore, did not immediately recall he had also wished the death of one of his abusers. When he was shown the message which said, “Happy to celebrate your death too. I have not got time for your hideous evil,” he immediately deleted it and offered an apology.
However, his neo-Nazi abusers including Alison Chabloz and Jason Schumann pounced on the opportunity to report Mr Lewis and the SRA went to work. It seems legal regulators take a dim view of solicitors’ using their twitter accounts which publicly identify them as a solicitor to post “offensive and profane communications.”
Chabloz and Suhumann are well known on social media for making fun of Jews’ noses and love of money. They also sang songs on how “the Jews corrupt the world with their hideous lies about a Holocaust when it is them that murder the innocent.” But the justice system as it stands finds Mark Lewis guilty of replying to these messages instead of just blocking or reporting these people.
If you block them, they will just move onto some other Jewish person or open another account to troll you and if you report them, again they return under a new name.
The advantages of the World Wide Web opened up such huge opportunities with ready-made information in your face within seconds at the push of the revolution button. But the disadvantages were unforeseen at the time by the inventor of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. Hacking, fraud, racism and the millions of people influenced by absolute nonsense is a serious threat to our society.
Social media accounts such as Twitter offer the opportunities to talk directly with a cabinet minister or known personality as if you were speaking to them on a talk phone in radio show. But there are strict Ofcom broadcast rules of what you can and cannot say. I do not have the answer as to how to police the dangerous social media “dark” web, but when you find a perfectly respectable London solicitor for replying to abusive and racist messages but allow the true neo-Nazi to sing and dance at their victory, something is wrong with the system.
Mark Lewis is making Aliyah in December with his partner Mandy Blumenthal as he believes the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world is out of control. He feels he has been let down by the very body he devoted much of his life too especially as someone who has been fighting and tackling antisemitism and other forms of racism for all of his career. In fact, he has consistently represented the underdog. Having to deal with the challenges of multiple sclerosis also does not help.
This week’s decision prompted cries of “disgrace” from the public seats, with some observers claiming it’s another victory to the anti-Semites.
Mark Lewis stood up to racism on behalf of us all and received a £12,500 bill. A crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds has now been set up as his friends and supporters say, “At least we can ensure that he does not suffer financially.”