Facebook has taken down the account of Britain First, a far-right party with a massive following on the platform, for “content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups,” the company said. The party has a long history of posting bigoted sentiments without a robust reaction from Facebook, which suggests the social network is taking calls to clamp down on hate speech more seriously than in the past.
Facebook has also removed the pages for the party’s two leaders, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, who were jailed last week after being convicted for religiously-motivated harassment. Drawing widespread criticism, Donald Trump retweeted several anti-Muslim videos shared by Fransen last November.
Britain First had more than two million followers on the platform, significantly more than any of the major political parties in the UK. Facebook did not say which content specifically got the party booted off the platform, but The Guardian reported that it included a post that compared Muslim immigrants to animals.
Facebook said that all three pages in question repeatedly violated its community standards, even after the administrators received final written warnings. “We are an open platform for all ideas and political speech goes to the heart of free expression. But political views can and should be expressed without hate,” the company said in a statement.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who criticized tech companies including Facebook for their lackluster response to hate speech just this week, praised the move:
The ban seems to be an indication of Facebook caving to increasing pressure from politicians and the media to step up its efforts to curb hate speech. Just over a year ago, after a story from Buzzfeed News challenged the company for taking money from Britain First to promote anti-Muslim content, Facebook said the party was within its rights, and that most of its content did not violate the platform’s community standards.
The paid posts included a video in which members of the group invaded a halal slaughterhouse, accusing the butchers of using funds from meat sales to fund terrorist groups, and a clip in which Fransen was riling up Polish immigrants living in the UK against Islam. The platform had removed the page once before, in 2015, but it said it was “a mistake,” and quickly restored it.