In Brief

Why Tommy Robinson has been banned from Facebook

Far-right activist’s banishment from main social media outlet could drastically reduce his influence

Far-right activist Tommy Robinson has been permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly posting “dehumanising” and inflammatory content about Muslims.

Both his personal Facebook account and his public page - where he had a following of one million fans - have been shut down with immediate effect. His account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has also been deleted.

In a statement explaining the decision, Facebook said that it strove to balance respect for free speech with its responsibility to protect users from hate speech.

“When ideas and opinions cross the line and amount to hate speech that may create an environment of intimidation and exclusion for certain groups in society - in some cases with potentially dangerous offline implications - we take action.

“Tommy Robinson’s Facebook page has repeatedly broken these standards, posting material that uses dehumanising language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims. He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organised hate.”

The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, received a final warning from the platform last month, “over posts including one ‘calling Muslims filthy scumbags’  and ‘calling on people to make war on Muslims’”, The Independent reports.

Facebook has been Robinson’s “primary platform for communicating with fans and organising demonstrations”, the newspaper adds, particularly since his ban from Twitter in March last year.

Robinson has a chequered history with the platform, which has enabled him to gain a large online following in international alt-right circles but has also proven something of an Achilles heel.

Last year, he was convicted of contempt of court for broadcasting a Facebook live-stream outside a court hearing a child grooming case.

He was also censured for using the live broadcasting service to falsely accuse a Syrian refugee boy attacked by a fellow pupil at a Huddersfield school of assaulting female classmates.

Robinson “thrives on media attention” and uses his social media presence to present himself as “the victim of a smear campaign designed to keep his views off mainstream outlets”, says The Guardian.

“The decision to ban Robinson from the social media sites could threaten his ability to reach large audiences,” the newspaper adds.

At the time of writing, Robinson’s YouTube account remains active, but the Google-owned platform does not allow ads to appear on his videos, meaning that he does not make money from them.

Another source of revenue was cut off in November 2018, when payment processing service Paypal announced that it would no longer allow Robinson supporters to send him donations.

In response to the news of his Facebook and Instagram ban, Robinson denied that he had done anything wrong, Sky News reports.

“I’ve breached no laws of Facebook,” he said. “What I've done is shown people the truth and that is what they are removing, the truth. People will still find me.”

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