Facebook bans UK far-right activist Tommy Robinson over hate speech

  • Facebook says Robinson posted content that "uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims."
  • Robinson, who formerly led the right-wing political organization EDL, has gained notoriety for his vocal criticism of Islam.
  • The decision Tuesday follows a move from the social network and various other tech firms to remove content and pages associated with Alex Jones.
Far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, greets supporters outside the Old Bailey after his case was adjourned on September 27, 2018 in London, England.
Jack Taylor | Getty Images
Far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, greets supporters outside the Old Bailey after his case was adjourned on September 27, 2018 in London, England.

Facebook pulled the official page and Instagram account belonging to British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, citing its policies around hate speech.

The firm said in a blog post Tuesday that Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had posted content that "uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims."

Robinson, who formerly led a right-wing political organization called the English Defense League, has gained notoriety for his vocal criticism of Islam. The EDL has been known to stage violent demonstrations against the religion, and has been accused by many of Islamophobia.

"He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organized hate," Facebook said. "As a result, in accordance with our policies, we have removed Tommy Robinson's official Facebook Page and Instagram profile."

The company added: "This is not a decision we take lightly, but individuals and organizations that attack others on the basis of who they are have no place on Facebook or Instagram."

He currently serves as a political advisor to the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, a euroskeptic political party that has waned in popularity following the 2016 Brexit vote. UKIP was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Robinson was jailed May last year for contempt of court, after he made video recordings about a trial related to child molestation. He was subsequently released following an appeal, with judges raising procedural concerns at the time. The case has since been referred to the U.K. attorney general.

Anti-fascist advocacy group Hope not Hate issued a statement lauding Facebook and Instagram's ban on Robinson.

"Stephen Lennon is a far-right thug who uses his platform to bully, abuse and stir up division, monetizing his hatred to earn huge sums while hiding behind a fake free speech mantle," Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, said.

"Lennon has a long record of abuse towards minorities such as Muslims, so we welcome today's decision as well as Facebook's continued actions in cleaning up their platform."

Facebook's decision Tuesday follows a similar move from the social network and various other tech firms to remove content and pages associated with the controversial right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Jones was the target of a clampdown by tech giants including Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify last year, which banned him over alleged breaches of their rules on hateful content.

Facebook is not the first tech platform to have banned Robinson. Twitter took similar steps in March last year, while PayPal recently decided to stop processing payments for the political activist. YouTube, meanwhile, stripped Robinson's channel of adverts last month, however he is still active on the site.