Was Facebook right to ban Tommy Robinson?
Dr Ben Marder, social media expert at University of Edinburgh Business School, says YES.
Facebook was absolutely right to permanently ban Tommy Robinson from its platform and sister site, Instagram.
Facebook prides itself as a medium of free speech, one that affords individuals and organisations an influential and globally accessible platform to air their views and spur debate on issues that matter to them.
However, there is one important caveat to this: “hate speech” is not tolerated on its sites, or in society as a whole, and this is clearly presented within its rules. Robinson, through his consistent pedalling of racist and xenophobic vitriol, is in clear violation of these rules.
Facebook is a site used by nearly one in three people on earth – that’s 2.3bn. This imbues huge responsibility and pressure on the social media giant to protect its users.
This ban, overdue as it may be, is a welcome step in an era when divisive, far-right political rhetoric threatens to further polarise society and poison the minds of increasingly disillusioned cross-sections of our communities.
Benedict Spence, a freelance writer, says NO.
Though Facebook is its own master, it should not bow to pressure from governments, or even its own users or staff, to censor those whose views are unpalatable. It has become far too big an entity, too entrenched in our lives, for that to be acceptable.
Bans set a bad precedent. Though we all agree that Tommy Robinson’s views are wrong, it’s a rare consensus. What happens when it is someone whose opinions divide society? Who decides then what is acceptable? And what moral opposition can we have to, say, Chinese crackdowns on political discourse when we allow it ourselves?
But the Robinson ban goes beyond this. I like to know what fascists are thinking. Pushing them underground only lets issues grow unchecked; having them in the open makes it easier to disprove them, and address the hate they are spouting head-on.
The rise of fascists is usually an indicator that something, somewhere, is wrong. I’d like to see that coming, rather than be caught unawares.