This paper examines the effect that Facebook’s removal of Britain First’s official page had on: the group’s dissemination and influence, in terms of numbers of followers, quantity of content posted and engagement level; and its visual communication strategy, specifically regarding its choice of images and the level of engagement that these generated.
The focus of this paper is on the extremist group Britain First. As such, it does not explore online terrorist activity but rather examines how a group regarded as extremist is subject to online sanctions.
The removal of the extremist group Britain First from Facebook in March 2018 successfully disrupted the group’s online activity, leading them to have to start anew on Gab, a different and considerably smaller social media platform. The removal also resulted in the group having to seek new online followers from a much smaller, less diverse recruitment pool. This paper demonstrates the further impact of the group’s platform migration on their online strategy – particularly on their choice of images and the engagement levels generated through them. The paper puts forward a number of key recommendations, most importantly that social-media companies should continue to censor and remove hateful content.
- Mainstream social media companies should continue to seek to remove extremist groups that breach their terms of service.
- The UK and US governments should work towards developing better relationships with newer, smaller and fringe platforms in order for content to be regulated on these sites.
- Mainstream social media companies should continue and intensify the sharing of best practices of the removal and monitoring of extreme content, as well as resources, with smaller and newer platforms.
- Policymakers should strengthen the response to extremist content through further collaboration (beyond the major social-media platforms) to ensure the consistent removal of content.
Lella Nouri is a Senior Lecturer of Criminology at Swansea University.
Nuria Lorenzo-Dus is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Swansea University.
Amy-Louise Watkin is a PhD Candidate in Criminology at Swansea University.