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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Britain First: Facebook bans far-right group over ‘anti-Islamophobic’ posts

Blacklist comes weeks after Britain First leaders jailed for religiously-aggravated harassment

Far-right group Britain First leader Paul Golding (R) and deputy leader Jayda Fransen arrive at court. Ben Stansall / AFP
Far-right group Britain First leader Paul Golding (R) and deputy leader Jayda Fransen arrive at court. Ben Stansall / AFP

Facebook has banned the official page of far-right group Britain First and two of its leaders for breaching hate speech rules reportedly linked to videos and a photo captioned “Islamophic and Proud”.

"We do not do this lightly, but they have repeatedly posted content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups, which disqualifies the pages from our service,” Facebook said in an emailed statement.

In addition to Britain First’s page – which had more than two million “likes” – Facebook blocked the pages of party leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, the groups’ leaders jailed this month for religiously-aggravated harassment.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan described Britain First on Twitter on Wednesday as a “vile and hate-fuelled group whose sole purpose is to sow division”.

"Their sick intentions to incite hatred within our society via social media are reprehensible, and Facebook's decision to remove their content is welcome," Mayor Khan said.

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Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the move in the House of Commons saying she hoped other technology companies would follow suit.

Neither Britain First nor Facebook immediate responded to inquiries about the nature of the banned material, but the Daily Telegraph said they included an image of the group’s leaders with the caption "Islamophobic and Proud" and multiple videos posted deliberately to incite hateful comments against Muslims.

US President Donald Trump caused a trans-Atlantic furore in January when he retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by Britain First to his millions of followers, but backed down following a dispute with Mrs May over sharing the inflammatory videos.

Twitter and YouTube previously suspended Britain First’s accounts, prompting the Facebook review, the company’s policy head Simon Milner told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in 2017.

Facebook described itself in the statement as an “open platform for all ideas and political speech” but said political views “can and should be expressed without hate: “People can express robust and controversial opinions without needing to denigrate others on the basis of who they are.”

Britain First won’t be allowed to set up an official Facebook page in the future, Facebook said.

Golding previously urged supporters to continue following the group on other social networks following its Twitter ban in December.