Facebook bans British far-right organisations

Groups thrown off the social media platform include the English Defence League and Britain First

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2018, file photo the icons of Facebook and WhatsApp are pictured on an iPhone in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Facebook is already the leader in enabling you to share photos, videos and links. It now wants to be a force in messaging, commerce, payments and just about everything else you do online. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
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Facebook says it is banning several high-profile British far-right groups from its services, in a crackdown being carried out under the company’s “dangerous individuals and organisations” policy.

Among the groups banned from posting on Facebook and Instagram are the English Defence League, Britain First and the British National Party. Knights Templar International, the National Front and National Action will also be banned, along with their leaders and representatives.

In the past, Knights Templar International used Facebook to help fund and equip extremist vigilantes to illegally detain immigrants in eastern Europe.

Supporting the banned far-right groups is now against the website’s guidelines, too.

Twelve were prohibited from using Facebook and Instagram, including BNP leader Nick Griffin, Britain First chief Paul Golding, and its former deputy leader Jayda Fransen.

Jack Renshaw, a former spokesman for the proscribed terrorist organisation National Action, was also among the banned figures.

Facebook says that the decision, which came into force today, was taken because it bans users that "proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence".

“Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook. Under our dangerous individuals and organisations policy, we ban those who proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence," Facebook said.

“The individuals and organisations we have banned today violate this policy, and they will no longer be allowed a presence on Facebook or Instagram. Posts and other content which expresses praise or support for these figures and groups will also be banned. Our work against organised hate is ongoing and we will continue to review individuals, organisations, pages, groups and content against our community standards.”

Responding to the ban, Nick Griffin, the former leader of the BNP tweeted: “How much longer before Twitter follow suit?” before urging followers to join him to “help build the free speech resistance”.

Brendan Cox, activist and widower of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered by a far-right fanatic in June 2016, was disappointed in how long it took the social media platform to ban the groups, tweeting:

At the end of last month, the social media network said it would block “praise, support and repetition of white nationalism and separatism”. It also pledged to improve its ability to identify and block material from terrorist organisations.

In late February, Facebook banned far-right activist Tommy Robinson - real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - after deciding that the founder of the EDL breached hate-speech rules.