Does Facebook have a grudge against the right? It’s an accusation that’s been leveled against Mark Zuckerberg before — notably in a Congressional hearing last year — and is rearing its head again, with the suspension of two British right-wing broadcasters, Tommy Robinson and Raheem Kassam.
Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League, has been permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for ‘repeatedly breaching’ their Community Standards by ‘posting material that uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims’, according to a Facebook blog post.
‘What they’re saying about me is complete lies,’ Robinson told Cockburn this morning. ‘What they’re saying about “hate” is all lies. This has happened because of my documentary, Panodrama. Every person they’ve deleted, all of them have been promoting that documentary.’
Panodrama was Robinson’s response to an undercover investigation by the BBC’s political program, Panorama. Robinson’s followers infiltrated the show and, to the BBC’s embarrassment, caught a Panorama journalist making homophobic and classist comments on tape. Robinson then broadcast his program online as a pre-emptive strike.
‘What Panodrama categorically proves is that the BBC is working with NGOs in order to destroy my name,’ Robinson says. ‘It proves that they’ve been trying to build sexual allegations against me, which aren’t there. It’s all there. It’s all on tape. That video had one and a half million views within 24 hours. It would have had 10 million by the weekend, and they know it. So they took my ability to speak away. Then they release hit jobs. I now have no platform to correct the lies they’re telling about me.’
‘We have laws in this country against inciting hatred,’ Robinson notes. ‘Facebook are saying that I’d said we must behead those that follow the Koran. They’re lying. If I’d said that, I’d be arrested by the British police. Everyone knows that.’
‘I can reveal I recently had a meeting with Facebook to discuss #TommyRobinson pages and their impact in brainwashing his supporters to become terrorist and use violence against Muslims,’ left-wing Muslim activist Mohammed Shafiq boasted on Twitter this morning. ‘A very good result and I am proud of my role.’
Is Shafiq neutral or trustworthy? In 2014, when the secular Muslim Maajid Nawaz posted a bland cartoon depicting Mohammed and Jesus win his Twitter account. ‘We will notify all Muslim organizations in the UK of his despicable behavior and also notify Islamic countries,’ Shafiq responded. He used the Urdu phrase for ‘defamer of the Prophet’, implying a capital criminal under Sharia. Nawaz subsequently received death threats. Shafiq hasn’t lost any of his social media, but Robinson, and Dr.Brian of London, an anti-Islamist and anti-leftist blogger from Tel Aviv, have lost theirs.
The social media giants, Robinson claims, are ‘working hand-in-hand with the government’ to stifle his voice as part of a campaign to silence right-wing populists. A British government enquiry has criticized Facebook for running fake ads during the 2016 Brexit referendum, and Mark Zuckerberg for not deigning to speak to the enquiry. If Robinson’s silencing is Facebook’s way of trying to restore its standing with the British government — the BBC is a state-owned broadcaster — then Robinson expects it to backfire. Rather than turn to Gab — he says he doesn’t want to associate with racists — he’s already working on a site and app for TR.News.
‘All I will do now is build the equivalent in Europe of what Infowars is in America. I will build my own platform. I have hundreds of thousands of email addresses.’
The case of Kassam, a Daily Caller contributor and former candidate for leader of the UK Independence Party, is slightly more curious. His account was disabled without explanation, leading to an outcry from figures like Donald Trump Jr. and Jack Posobiec.
I’m sure this was an “accident” like I’ve been hearing from the social media masters. Funny that the accidents only happen one way. https://t.co/OTenZwaeCJ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 26, 2019
The former Breitbart London editor-in-chief said to his knowledge, there was no connection between his suspension and Robinson’s ban. ‘Our accounts are not linked in any way. Maybe the algorithm picked up the fact I have posted about him previously? Who knows.’
A lengthy ban could have hit Kassam in the wallet: he told Cockburn he was ‘wholly reliant on ordinary supporters.’ Fortunately for him, he was granted access to his account after a couple of hours.
Following this intervention from @DonaldJTrumpJr and others, Facebook has now reinstated my account.
Thank you to Don Jr. and all the others who got so involved and ahead on this story. I've no doubt you frightened Facebook into acting.
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) February 26, 2019
‘Social media censorship has obviously been a problem for some time, but the fact that Facebook can nix a main stage CPAC speaker a few days before the largest conservative event in the world is an extraordinary development in their targeting of more mainstream right-wing voices,’ Kassam said.
‘While I am pleased to have been reinstated now, questions must be answered as to how this continues to happen to only those on the political right.’