‘Free speech is dead’: Tommy Robinson’s ‘ban’ from Twitter sparks outrage and joy
Tommy Robinson has re-ignited a row on free speech in Britain after he was banned from Twitter. Far-right activists and commentators have increasingly claimed they are being denied freedom of expression in the UK.
Furious fans of the outspoken EDL leader turned vlogger – accused by his opponents of inciting racism – have taken to social media to express outrage. Robinson was initially suspended on March 1 for referencing a Quilliam Foundation report.
“90% of grooming gang convictions are Muslims,” Robinson wrote in a tweet on February 25. The think-tank research stated that 84 percent of ‘grooming gang’ convictions were Asian males in December last year.
Robinson’s other Twitter account suggested the ban was permanent. It comes after his verified ‘blue tick’ was removed in November, when Twitter clamped down on far-right groups. Jailed Britain First leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, who were convicted of religiously aggravated harassment, were also suspended from the platform.
Fans of Robinson took to social media to express their outrage and the hashtag '#iamtommy' briefly trended.
TOMMY ROBINSON HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM TWITTER #FREESPEECH IS DEAD !!— Linda Steinhauser (@Medaton) March 28, 2018
Tommy Robinson has been suspended from Twitter, with some reporting this to be a final strike. His crime? Reporting unabashedly about the horrors of Islamic extremism. This is not okay. How can we have dialogue if we censor people? #iamtommypic.twitter.com/Bm4f4Jcgvo— Robert Peterson 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@liminallogos) March 28, 2018
Genuine assault on free speech that should worry us all. Tommy Robinson, who started speaking up about grooming gangs in 2004, has been permenantly banned on twitter - for speaking the truth. We couldn’t care less about these 1000s of girls raped and abused across UK. #iamtommypic.twitter.com/KKsPXtwIF9— Jane Smith (@Jane_j_smith) March 28, 2018
Robinson came to prominence when he headed the English Defense League, a far-right street-protest movement whose marches would invariably descend into violence. Since coming to the fore, Robinson has faced constant opposition from anti-racism activists, some of whom voiced their pleasure at his apparent ban. Others took the opportunity to point out the irony with '#iamtommy,' reminding his fans that Tommy Robinson is actually one of many aliases used by activist, his real being Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon.
LOL at the IAMTOMMY hashtag for Tommy Robinson. Tommy’s not even Tommy - he’s a tanning salonista by the name of Stephen— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) March 28, 2018
Hilarious that Tommy Robinscum supporters are using the #IAmTommy hashtag after yet another Twitter suspension. Even Tommy isn't Tommy - he's a crooked home counties businessman with a double barreled name and knack for manipulating the confused and fearful— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) March 28, 2018
Tommy Robinson’s twitter account has been suspended. Good to see Twitter taking racial hatred seriously.— Nadeem Ahmed (@Muqadaam) March 28, 2018
Just seen that Tommy Robinson can't spread his brand of hate on here any more, get in!— Shaun (@Oddsockman) March 28, 2018
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had over 400,000 followers at the time of his suspension. Twitter’s policy over the coveted ‘blue tick’ is being changed following widespread condemnation of extremist views being propagated by holders of the verification.
"Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception," the company tweeted on Wednesday.
"This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse. We're working on a new authentication and verification program. In the meantime, we are not accepting any public submissions for verification and have introduced new guidelines for the program."
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