Facebook Race Wars (UK)
1/11/2008- Racist groups are operating on Facebook to recruit members, threaten individuals and incite religious and racial hatred Student can reveal. An investigation conducted by Student found groups on the popular social networking site supporting the British National Party (BNP) and promoting Islamophobia as well as one group pushing extremist Islamic views. All three groups include members from UK universities. There are over 100 pro-BNP groups on the site, with the largest of these, ‘Vote BNP’ boasting over 9,000 members. Another group, entitled ‘BNP is not racist (kick out muslims that r racists)’ calls for ‘muslim haters’ to ‘stand and fight’ and heralds the return of ‘White Power.’ Last year The Media Guardian reported that the five main BNP groups on Facebook counted 377 members, although individuals often join multiple groups. Student can reveal that this number has risen to over 20 000 in the space of just 12 months. Other racist groups on Facebook include the highly controversial ‘Fuck Islam’ forum which states that ‘we are here to help Muslims leave their abusive and false religion’ and calls for the religion to be ‘smashed into pieces.’ The ‘Fuck Islam’ group has 1261 members, including students from the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham, Glasgow and Leicester. It was shut-down earlier this year, but re-opened on 8 August with a statement maintaining that ‘we’re here to stay.’ While there are numerous anti-Islam groups operating on Facebook, ‘The Ultimate Muslim Warriors’ is a radical pro-Islamic group which aims to advance the religion across the world. The group is just shy of 6000 members and while it is not openly racist, it includes a thread on the discussion board with members and administrators supporting terrorist attacks on the West and the stoning of adulterous women. There are also posts praising the collapse of the American banking system with members proclaiming a recession will signal the beginning of Islamic rule and shariah law in the West.
Facebook is used by 85% of UK university students and is the leading social networking site in the country, overtaking MySpace in April of this year. On average, 132.1 million unique visitors use the site per month, making it a prime target for racist organisations wishing to perpetuate their ideas. Facebook’s terms and conditions state that user groups can be removed for sharing anything seen as “harmful, threatening, hateful or radically or ethnically objectionable.” However, critics suggest that the social networking site has been slow to block groups inciting racial hatred. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) joint general secretary, Denis Fernando questioned Facebook’s commitment to keeping racist comments and groups off their site telling Student: “Why have Facebook not acted on this clear contravention of its terms and conditions? It should not allow anyone to breach the most fundamental terms of a site – causing offence and inciting ethnic attacks.” Despite numerous counter-groups such as ‘Ban the BNP from Facebook or we all walk,’ and ‘Delete Fuck Islam,’ which have been in operation for over a year, Facebook has yet to remove the racist comments and propaganda from its site.
Nick Armstrong, a partner at law firm Charles Russell said: “The danger with these sites is that they are so big that a complaint might not be acted on fast enough.” In 2006, the Government passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. Under this bill, it is an offence to threaten people because of their religion, or to stir up hatred against a person because of their faith. The bill also specifically mentions that “threatening words will be classified as criminal.”
Based on this criteria, comments such as “Islam is a disgusting disease of the mind and it needs to be stopped, down with Islam” on the ‘Fuck Islam’ group, and “burn the fucking bastards...I live in Walthamstow where the three of the London bombers were from so I probably got more hate than anyone. Any muslims want some, come and find me, I’d love to fuck you up” on the ‘BNP is not racist’ group, can be viewed as contravening the law and inciting racial hatred. Not only are these racist groups present on Facebook, but Student can reveal that the BNP are actively recruiting party members using the social networking site. There are links to the BNP Youth on their groups, while BNP activists send round personal messages asking young people to join. Indeed, an activist known as Alex E urged students to join the party on the ‘BNP is not racist’ group, writing on the ‘wall,’ ‘message me with your location and your county. Together we hope to end mass immigration and deal with the anti-white racists.” Edinburgh University student Freya Hylton, who was invited to join the ‘Vote BNP’ group told Student: “ It is disgusting that these groups are active on Facebook, so many students love the site but until they ban racist groups, they are indirectly fostering violent views and openly giving voice to dangerous ideas. Something needs to be done to free Facebook from factions who incite backward and despicable racist views.” The BNP maintain that they are not a racist party and have gained a voice through the legitimate democratic system – a suggestion critics have questioned considering the ‘Vote BNP’ group’s statement that there must be ‘no anti-BNP propaganda on the wall. Any such posting will be deleted or marked as irrelevant.” The administrators of the ‘Fuck Islam,’ and ‘The Ultimate Muslim Warriors’ groups were contacted but refused to comment on Student’s racism claims. Facebook was contacted with reference to the groups but did not respond.