Belfast Telegraph

Loyalists blame crusade by republicans for axing Facebook pages

By Mark Bain

A number of loyalist groups claim that Facebook has shut down their pages or removed images after complaints from republicans.

South Belfast Action for Community Tranformation (ACT), Shankill ACT and South Belfast UPRG sites have all been affected. Their creators say they cannot understand why the pictures have been deemed "offensive".

The photos included a bass drum presented to the 1st Battalion (Donegal Pass) South Belfast Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force, a UVF officer's cap and armband from the North Belfast UVF. These photos were posted along with report of a visit to the Ulster Museum reserve.

The issues over Facebook images come a few weeks after a number of YouTube accounts linked to marching bands were closed by the video-sharing website, resulting in hundreds of hours of footage being lost.

Paul Clissold of South Belfast UPRG said: "Our page keeps well within the boundaries of fair and proportionate democratic opinion and has been praised as a voice of reason and level-headed debate.

"There has been a campaign via republican elements to pressurise Facebook into limiting the free speech of those it deems to be offensive to their own worldview and we were amazed to have been targeted.

"When you look at some pages that promote (and even glorify in) violence and so-called 'jihad' (amongst other things), it is laughable that a page such as ours is singled out."

Mr Clissold said that he was aware of a number of Facebook pages linked to the "broader unionist family" which were targeted in recent weeks, including the page for South Belfast UPRG magazine.

"Regrettably, Facebook has removed the page permanently without any appeal mechanism," he said.

"We have no doubt this was an orchestrated attack by people who do not want certain sections of the BUF to show any form of being progressive and wanting to move all communities forward."

William Mitchell of ACT Initiative confirmed that several pages run by South Belfast ACT had been targeted by Facebook in what he says is an ongoing battle with images being removed and the site suspended without warning.

He added: "We have had repeated problems with images being removed from a number of our Facebook sites in different localities.

"Whilst I accept that some may be contentious (memorials and the like), the removal of legitimate images borders on discrimination when you consider the defamatory images which are still on other sites."

A Shankill ACT spokesman said: "We have had some of our images removed from Facebook recently and which also resulted in many of our pages receiving 24-hour and three-day bans.

"We can only assume there is an issue with the Facebook system in identifying murals and historical badges or emblems, but one was for an image of a Christmas calendar, which is very hard to understand."

South Belfast ACT said: "The education, examination and historical critique of our distant past and not so distant past is not active or credible support for ongoing terrorist activity, but in fact, a means of understanding the past as a tool of ensuring we never again have a scenario where our community is torn apart by conflict. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. There was no explanation given bar citing a breach of community standards."

Facebook said that the South Belfast UPRG page was temporarily unpublished on July 6 due to an automation error.

A statement said: "A number of photos were incorrectly removed. Those images are being restored and should be back up on Facebook now."

None of the groups have yet to receive a individual response despite appeals to Facebook.

Belfast Telegraph

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