The world’s biggest social media platform has spoken out about community standards. This follows the much-talked-about removal of a profile reportedly linked to “organised hate”.
Facebook and Instagram announced on Tuesday February 26 that the accounts of Tommy Robinson would be removed.
This has been welcomed by many and denounced by many.
However, it has now led to a larger discussion, regarding freedom of expression and social standards.
Why were Tommy Robinson’s profiles removed?
For those who don’t know him, Robinson is an English far-right activist. Since November 2018 he has been serving as political advisor to Gerard Batten, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Late last month his Instagram and Facebook profiles were removed, under their “organised hate” policy.
Removing Tommy Robinson’s Page and Profile for Violating Our Community Standards | Facebook Newsroom https://t.co/oKXRIjCGmB
— Annette Gartland (@netpoette) February 26, 2019
Facebook, via their newsroom service, released a brief statement to explain. “Tommy Robinson’s Facebook Page has repeatedly broken these standards, posting material that uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims,” it said.
“He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organised hate. As a result, in accordance with our policies, we have removed Tommy Robinson’s official Facebook Page and Instagram profile.
“This is now a decision we take lightly, but individuals and organisations that attack others on the basis of who they are have no place on Facebook or Instagram.”
Robinson had already been banned from Twitter. The recent development has been met with a mixture of reactions, however.
Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and shadow Culture Secretary, took to social media to welcome the decision. Though he did add that it had come too late.
Meanwhile publications like Wired argued the ban was all about “saving face, not stopping extremism”. Others also questioned the dangers of compromising freedom of speech.
Mr Batten MEP also took to Twitter to give his views. He wrote: “After 1M views of Tommy Robinson’s Panorama film his Facebook account has been shut down – for BS reasons.”
He later added: “The left’s establishment are closing ranks and counter attacking. The people have only one weapon their votes. Join UKIP.” He then, “in the interests of free speech”, posted a video response from Robinson. Before adding: “The attack on him is an attack on everyone who feels entitled to voice and point of view not in line with politically correct dogma.”
His party, UKIP, also shared a statement (below).
The larger discussion
Facebook’s statement following their removal of Robinson’s accounts sent out a clear message.
“One of the biggest questions we face is around what we allow on Facebook – and we spend a lot of time trying to get this right,” read the statement. “This is hard and critically important.”
“We want Facebook to be a place where you can express yourself freely and share openly with friends and family. At the same time, when people come to Facebook we always want them to feel welcome and safe.”
I welcome Facebook's decision to remove Tommy Robinson pages under their "Organised Hate" policy. But for far too long this violent thug's hate-spewing, anti-Islamist tirades were given a platform by Facebook. Today's decision comes far too late….https://t.co/s7d2qW69Hm
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) February 26, 2019
There has been a mixed reaction so far.
UK entering "dark place in our national life" says UKIP Leader as key Ukippers are banned from Facebook
“I am sure it is no coincidence that this is happening within 24 hours of the release of the Panodrama documentary.” – @GerardBattenMEP
— UKIP (@UKIP) February 26, 2019
“This is something we take incredibly seriously. So, 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.”
It added: “Our public Community Standards state this sort of speech is not acceptable on Facebook – and when we become aware of it, we remove it as quickly as we can.
“Our rules also make clear that individuals and organisations that are engaged in ‘organised hate’ are not allowed on the platform, and that praise or support for these figures and groups is also banned.
“This is true regardless of the ideology they espouse.”
YouTube is now under pressure to join the other platforms in banning Robinson. The debate continues.