Twitter has suspended accounts belonging to the far-right group Britain First and its leaders Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding, just weeks after US President Donald Trump shared tweets posted by Fransen on his personal account.
The move came a day before British MPs, who are part of the Home Affairs Committee, were set to discuss the role social media plays in influencing hate crime.
Accounts and posts made by the group were deleted on Monday as part of the social media network’s updated policy to combat “hateful conduct and abuse” on the platform.
Trump was slammed in late November after he retweeted three anti-Muslim posts by Fransen.
The retweets earned rare rebuke of the US leader from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
So @Twitter finally suspend Britain First – the day before social media cos appear at @CommonsHomeAffs .Why does it take a Parliamentary hearing to make them do the right thing? https://t.co/WcpCJ1IMlE
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) December 18, 2017
“Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people,” May said in response to the incident.
At least one of the tweets shared by Trump, a still from a video purportedly featuring a Muslim migrant assaulting a Dutch teenager, was called out as false.
Dutch media outlets pointed out that the perpetrator of the assault was neither a Muslim or a migrant, as claimed by Fransen.
Trump’s promotion of Britain First material led to renewed calls among Twitter users for the platform to take action against racial and religious abuse.
Purged from Twitter so far:
– Hunter Wallace (League of the South)
– Michael Hill (League of the South)
– Jayda Fransen (Britain First)
– Paul Golding (Britain First)
– Jared Taylor
– American Renaissance
– Traditionalist Worker Party
— Casey Michel 🇰🇿 (@cjcmichel) December 18, 2017
Fransen and Golding’s were among several far-right and white supremacist accounts suspended by Twitter this week, which appeared to come as a result of the platform’s updated policy.
On Monday, Twitter began enforcing new rules regarding individuals and groups that promote hateful and other abusive behaviour “on and off the platform”.
“Accounts that affiliate with organisations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes” will be in violation of the platform’s policies, Twitter said in a statement.
It said it was cracking down on “content that glorifies violence or the perpetrators of a violent act” and any account that “abuses or threatens others through their profile information”.
Twitter also said it would not tolerate hateful imagery, which includes “logos, symbols, or images whose purpose is to promote hostility and malice against others based on their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin”.
Others accounts affected by the crackdown included US-based groups, such as Vanguard America and the American Nazi Party.
Britain First continues to operate on Facebook, where it has almost two million likes and continues to share objectionable content.
A Buzzfeed report in late 2016 showed how the group had paid Facebook thousands of pounds to get its content promoted on user timelines.
Twitter suspends hate preachers and Britain First leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen. All I want to know is what took them so long? But it’s better late than never!!
— Parveen (@Parveen_Comms) December 18, 2017
The group’s vast online following, however, has not translated into bigger crowds at the anti-Islam protests it organises, which usually draw only a few dozen supporters.
Britain First came to prominence in the UK after the murder of the MP Jo Cox in the week preceding the June 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.
The opposition Labour party politician was a vocal supporter of immigration and refugee rights and had been campaigning for the UK to remain in the bloc when she was stabbed and shot by a white supremacist.
Her killer, Thomas Mair, was heard shouting “Britain first” by witnesses.