YouTube Blocks Comments, Recommendations of British Far-Right Activist Tommy Robinson

The immigration and Islam critic’s videos have been removed from YouTube’s recommendations and stripped of comments and likes

Last Updated: April 2, 2019 @ 9:51 AM

YouTube has severely restricted far-right U.K. activist Tommy Robinson’s account on Tuesday, removing his videos from its recommendations and barring him from live streaming. The Google-owned company’s decision stops just short of effectively banning Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, from its platform.

“After consulting with third party experts, we are applying a tougher treatment to Tommy Robinson’s channel in keeping with our policies on borderline content,” a YouTube spokesperson told TheWrap. His account will also be “stripped of key features” including comments and likes, the spokesperson said.

Robinson’s videos will remain on YouTube, but will be preempted by an interstitial, or warning, before playing, the spokesperson said. A YouTube search for Robinson’s channel on Tuesday morning did not pull up his account.

YouTube did not reveal what Robinson explicitly did to warrant the new sanctions, but the company pointed to its “hate speech policies,” which prohibits “violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on” religious affiliation, among other attributes. The 36-year-old has gained notoriety as the founder of the English Defense League, an “anti-Islam and anti-immigration movement known for violent street protests,” The New York Times said last year. Robinson has blamed Muslims for a disproportionate number of child sexual assaults in England — calling defendants in one case last year “Muslim child rapists” as they entered the court. He was later arrested for live streaming from outside the sex abuse trial and sentenced to 13-months in prison for contempt of court, a charge that was later overturned.

YouTube said it reached its decision after consulting with British academics and other experts on the best course of action for Robinson’s account. The latest restrictions come after YouTube demonetized Robinson’s account in January.

Silicon Valley has increasingly closed the digital walls around Robinson in the last year, with Facebook and Instagram banning him in February for violating its hate speech rules. Robinson was also banned from Twitter last year.

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