Home Trending Banned British far-right figures return to Twitter within hours of takeover

Banned British far-right figures return to Twitter within hours of takeover

Banned British far-right figures return to Twitter within hours of takeover

Key figures on Britain’s far right who were previously banned from Twitter have been able to open new accounts, apparently without restrictions, after the platform’s takeover by Elon Musk.

Britain First, an extreme group whose leader has spent time in jail for hate crimes against Muslims, rejoined the social media network on Friday. It had been banned in 2017 under Twitter’s hate speech rules after posting inflammatory anti-Muslim videos. Some videos posted by its then deputy leader were retweeted by US president Donald Trump.

Twitter has mechanisms to detect when banned users set up accounts, and the new Britain First account quickly had its features limited after being found to violate rules. But it was later restored to full functionality, according to screenshots shared with members in a group for Britain First supporters. The account was still live on Saturday evening.

In a post on the messaging app Telegram celebrating its return, Britain First said it would “usually be suspended immediately”, adding: “This is new.”

“Great to see our party displayed in all its glory,” a supporter replied. “Wooooo, happy bloody days!” another wrote.

It is unclear whether the decision to allow Britain First on the platform is a conscious one by moderators or an oversight, and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment. But the Center for Countering Digital Hate said the move would allow the group to “restart [its] campaign of spreading divisive hate and racism” and sent a message that extremists could “operate with impunity”.

Content posted by Britain First in the 24 hours after it rejoined included a video of asylum seekers at a hotel in Rotherham, clips of the RNLI rescuing migrants off Kent and a video “allegedly showing illegal #migrants jumping out of a van in northern France”.

“They will all cross the #Channel to a life funded by the British taxpayer #CloseTheBorders,” the caption read.

Elon Musk dressed in dark clothing, sitting looking at the camera against a dark background
Elon Musk has promised to create a ‘content moderation council’. Photograph: APFootage/Alamy

Videos posted before Britain First’s ban reportedly contained misinformation. One video purported to show a “Muslim migrant” attacking a Dutch man on crutches but was later debunked by the Dutch authorities, which said the person arrested for the attack was “born and raised in the Netherlands” and was not a migrant.

Britain First – whose leader, Paul Golding, was jailed in 2018 for hate crimes against Muslims – denies being racist and says it “rejects racial hatred in all its forms”.

The apparent return of far-right figures raises questions about where Twitter’s new owner will draw the line on content moderation and who will be permitted on the app. Musk, the Tesla billionaire who bought Twitter for $44bn, has been critical of its moderation decisions in the past and called for a greater emphasis on what he says is “free speech”. In the hours after his takeover of the platform, some users flooded it with racist, antisemitic and homophobic slurs in an apparent attempt to test the response.

In a statement on Friday, the world’s richest man moved to assuage concerns about a rise in harmful content under his ownership by announcing the creation of a content moderation council that would bring together “diverse views”, adding that “no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before the council convenes”.

However, Musk then said on Twitter that a “better idea” than the council might be to separate the platform into different strands. “Being able to select which version of Twitter you want is probably better, much as it would be for a movie maturity rating,” he wrote, adding that that rating of a user’s tweet could be self-selected and then “modified by user feedback”.

Good point.

Being able to select which version of Twitter you want is probably better, much as it would be for a movie maturity rating.

The rating of the tweet itself could be self-selected, then modified by user feedback.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 29, 2022

He also indicated he would examine the case of Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist and author, who was suspended from Twitter after violating the platform’s policies with a tweet about transgender actor Elliot Page. “Anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons will be freed from Twitter jail,” Musk wrote.

Britain First, which describes itself as a “patriotic” group that is “taking our country back”, said the fact it had been able to rejoin was a sign Twitter’s new owner valued freedom of speech. Golding said: “Britain First was first banned by woke bigots back in 2017 after being retweeted by President Donald Trump. We are glad to be back on the platform as a registered, full UK political party that contests democratic elections.” Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday



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