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YouTube restricts videos from far-right figure Tommy Robinson, but stops short of ban


YouTube has placed further restrictions on prominent UK far-right figure Tommy Robinson, but it’s not quite banning him.

As reported by BuzzFeed, YouTube will strip view counts, suggested videos, likes or comments from Robinson’s videos.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, will not have his videos recommended on the platform.

His videos will also have an interstitial warning, which tells people that the content they’re about to view isn’t suitable for all audiences.

The former English Defence League leader, now UKIP adviser, won’t be able to live stream on YouTube either, something that he does once or twice a week on the platform.

A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the restrictions to Mashable, after the company opted for a tougher stance after consulting with external experts and UK academics.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

“The content will be placed behind an interstitial, removed from recommendations, and stripped of key features including livestreaming, comments, suggested videos, and likes.”

A screenshot of YouTube’s restrictions.
Credit: Mashable Screenshot

Aside from Robinson’s videos, YouTube will continue to limit content which doesn’t quite violate the company’s hate speech and violent extremism policies — a solution of sorts it unveiled in 2017.

If a video is not found to be in violation of the company’s policies, but contains controversial religious or extremist elements, it’ll receive the same restrictions as Robinson’s content has.

YouTube’s restrictions come after Facebook and Instagram banned Robinson from their platforms back in February. Twitter pulled the plug on his account last year.

Robinson, who had more than one million Facebook followers, was banned for repeatedly breaking Facebook’s community standards, which included “posting material that uses dehumanizing language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims.”

As per the BBC, he had been handed a final written warning from Facebook, after making posts which called Muslims “filthy scum bags,” and urged people to terrorise and behead those who follow the Koran, among other anti-Muslim posts.

In January, YouTube stopped Robinson from making money on the platform after breaking the company’s advertising policies.

UPDATE: April 2, 2019, 11:35 a.m. BST Matthew McGregor, campaigns director of HOPE not hate, sent the following statement to Mashable.

“Stephen Lennon [Tommy Robinson] has flouted the law, raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds promoting his conspiracies and stoking communal hatred, all while social media giants have provided the platforms that are vital to his high profile. YouTube is a powerful tool for the likes of Stephen Lennon and the DIY fascists who try to use the platform to radicalise young people. Pew research suggests that a whopping 81% of users watch recommended videos, so turning that tap off for Lennon is a good start. But people will rightly ask why YouTube are providing a platform for hate speech at all.”





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