Facebook Inc. has tried to maintain a veneer of editorial independence, but recent moves in Europe point toward the social media giant becoming increasingly active in banning those who cross the line.
The social media platform Wednesday banned the Facebook page of ‘Britain First’, the far-right fringe group U.S. President Donald Trump once retweeted to near universal condemnation.
Britain First’s Facebook page, and the pages of its leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, were taken down after they repeatedly posted content that broke its rules that bar hate speech and didn’t stop after a written final warning, Facebook said in a statement.
“We do not do this lightly,” said Facebook, “but they have repeatedly posted content designed to incite animosity and hatred against minority groups, which disqualifies the Pages from our service.”
Both Golding and Fransen recently received prison sentences for religiously-aggravated harassment.
Stung by the ongoing furor over the rise of fake news, Facebook has been working hard to be portrayed as a neutral platform, trying to promote higher-quality content without making editorial decisions.
Last week, Facebook removed and then reinstated a video of a senior Hungarian minister in which he tried to portray white people in neighboring Austria as living in fear of Muslims in a warning to voters before his country’s elections next month.
Facebook’s banning of Britain First follows in the footsteps of Twitter Inc., which late last year pulled accounts linked to Britain First, alongside U.S. white supremacist organizations like the League of the South and American Renaissance.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told a Brussels audience in January that the U.S. company promised “to do better” to boost privacy, stem the spread of hate speech and clamp down on the abuse of the social network to influence votes.
The European Union has issued internet giants an ultimatum to remove illegal online terrorist content within an hour, or risk facing new reprisals.