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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Tommy Robinson: Facebook bans anti-Muslim activist

Robinson ‘violated’ the social media platform’s standards by calling for violence against Muslims

Tommy Robinson has been banned from Facebook. AFP
Tommy Robinson has been banned from Facebook. AFP

Facebook and Instagram have removed accounts belonging to the far-right activist Tommy Robinson for violating its policies by promoting hate speech.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said Robinson had used its platforms to encourage violence against Muslims.

The social media company said the 36-year-old, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley Lennon, would not be allowed back.

"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," Facebook said in a statement.

"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.”

Facebook said it had not taken the decision to remove Robinson’s pages lightly.

The tech firm said they sent Robinson, a founder of the anti-Islamic English Defence League, a written warning in January concerning a number of posts on his page which had violated its community standards.

The offending material included posts urging people to “make war” on Muslims and to terrorise and behead those who follow the Quran.

Robinson was suspended from Twitter in March 2018, reportedly for breaking its "hateful conduct policy". He was later removed from PayPal in November.

His only remaining official profile on a mainstream social platform is on Google-owned YouTube.

Responding to the ban, Robinson told the Press Association: "Where is free speech? I've breached no laws of Facebook... What I've done is shown people the truth, and that is what they are removing, the truth."

Robinson – who has prior convictions for assault, drug possession and fraud – was imprisoned in 2018 for live-streaming outside a court during a trial of a gang accused of sexual assault, in breach of reporting restrictions.

Facebook’s decision was welcomed by anti-racism campaigners including the chief executive of charity Hope not Hate, who said Robinson had a “long record of abuse towards minorities such as Muslims”.

“Stephen Lennon is a far-right thug who uses his platform to bully, abuse and stir up division, monetising his hatred to earn huge sums while hiding behind a fake free speech mantle,” said Nick Lowles.

Labour MP David Lammy called for further regulation of social media sites.

“Tommy Robinson has been allowed to generate a huge following and revenue through spreading divisive, Islamophobic bile,” he said on Twitter. “We should regulate Facebook and others to make sure they act much faster to prevent it.”

Updated: February 26, 2019 08:56 PM

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