Facebook blocks Britain First, a far-right anti-Muslim group promoted by Trump

Far-right group Britain First's leader Paul Golding (second from right) and deputy Jayda Fransen arriving at Folkestone magistrates court in Kent on Jan 29, 2018.
Far-right group Britain First's leader Paul Golding (second from right) and deputy Jayda Fransen arriving at Folkestone magistrates court in Kent on Jan 29, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (NYTIMES) Facebook said on Wednesday (March 14) that it had taken down several pages associated with Britain First, a far-right group whose leaders were recently convicted of hate crimes and whose inflammatory anti-Muslim videos President Donald Trump shared with the world late last year.

The social network said that the pages of Britain First and its leaders, Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, had repeatedly violated community standards with posts that boasted of Islamophobia, incited hateful anti-Muslim comments and compared Muslim immigrants to animals.

After the administrators of the pages failed to heed a final warning to abide by Facebook's standards, the company took the fringe group's pages down.

"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.

The Britain First Facebook page had about 2 million followers around the world.

Facebook said that while it remains an open platform for all ideas and political speech, a wide range of views can and should be expressed "without needing to denigrate others on the basis of who they are."

Britain First, a Christian nationalist group estimated to have about 1,000 members, has used inflammatory tactics like confronting Muslims on the street and entering mosques to spread its belief that Islam is destroying Britain.

In November, it got an unexpected boost from Trump, who helped to promote its message by sharing with his tens of millions of Twitter followers three videos Fransen, the deputy leader, had posted on her own account.

One video was titled "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!" but featured an assailant who was not, in fact, a "Muslim migrant." The other two, titled "Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!" and "Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!" were several years old and included no context.

Before Trump retweeted those videos, no modern American president had amplified inflammatory content of that nature from an extremist organisation.

Golding, Britain First's leader, and Fransen were both convicted last week on counts of religiously aggravated harassment stemming from videos they posted online. Golding was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison while Fransen was sentenced to 36 weeks.

The videos, from May, showed Fransen knocking on doors that she believed - incorrectly, according to prosecutors - were hiding the Muslim defendants in a rape trial. She insulted the men and challenged them to come out.

Facebook and other social networks have come under increased scrutiny in recent months amid rising concern about the proliferation of hate speech and conspiracy theories online.