Reporting by Billy Briggs, Joshua Martin and Liam Turbett
A far right group with links to neo-Nazis, a convicted paedophile and a jailed bomb-maker has been banned from Facebook for hate speech, The Ferret can reveal.
The Scottish Defence League opposes Islam and refugees and is an offshoot of the English Defence League, a violent far right group in England whose leader was Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson.
The SDL, formed around 2009, claims not to be racist but critics have long argued that it acts as a front for neo-Nazis, religious bigots and football hooligans intent on causing violence and sectarian divisions.
As part of its crackdown on hate speech Facebook has removed Scottish Defence League 2, the SDL’s main page which had 15,000 followers. Facebook said the group had violated community standards.
The SDL was condemned in March after The National reported anti-Muslim and homophobic comments on its Facebook page, following the terror attacks on mosques in New Zealand when 50 people were murdered.
One person wrote: “This mass murder in NZ is the worst possible thing that could have happened for us who want to prevent the mass immigration of Muslims into Europe.
“The Zionist/Globalist media and control system will have a field day of it. IMO it has all the halmarks [sic] of a Problem Reaction Solution and it was probably these same Zionist/Globalists who set this up. Just like they did 9/11.”
Facebook’s definition of hate speech is “anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their ‘protected characteristics’ — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.”
Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook. Spokesperson, Facebook
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Ferret: “Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook.
“Our work against organised hate is ongoing and we will continue to review individuals, organisations, pages, groups and content against our community standards.”
Over the last two months Facebook has deleted around 66,000 posts reported as hate speech per week, on average – around 288,000 posts a month globally. The social media giant says it will no longer tolerate hate-mongers while stressing it supports freedom of speech and legitimate debate.
As part of its crackdown, Facebook permanently banned a number of far-right organisations and individuals in April. They included the British National Party and its former chairman, Nick Griffin, Britain First and its leader Paul Golding, and former deputy leader, Jayda Fransen.
The English Defence League was removed too, as was Jim Dowson, a far-right activist from Scotland who was involved with Knights Templar International. The National Front and its leader, Tony Martin, were also deleted.
Facebook also banned far-right activist, Jack Renshaw, a former spokesman for the proscribed terrorist organisation National Action, which had an offshoot in Scotland called Scottish Dawn, also banned under terror laws.
Renshaw is a neo-Nazi extremist convicted of preparing an act of terrorism, threatening to kill a police officer, and grooming children for sex.
Renshaw supported the SDL, and has been linked to the organisation a number of times. In March 2016, he visited Scotland to attend a SDL protest on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
The demonstration saw a small delegation of National Action activists join the SDL with the neo-Nazi activists dressed in skull face masks and waving black and white flags.
It was not Renshaw’s first meeting with the SDL. The previous weekend a far right rally took place in Blackpool with a contingent of SDL members making the trip south.
Video footage, originally uploaded by a National Action supporter, showed SDL members forming a guard of honour for Renshaw as he delivered a speech calling for the genocide of Jewish people and saying that Britain should have allied with the Nazis in the Second World War.
The Blackpool speech proved to be the beginning of Renshaw’s undoing. An investigation by police into the comments was launched in November 2016, and the following month National Action found themselves banned under terror laws although it continued to meet in secret.
Renshaw would later admit to a plot to kill Labour MP Rosie Cooper after a whistleblower exposed his plan to anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate. The 23 year old faced four trials, culminating last month, when it emerged that Renshaw is a convicted paedophile.
After National Action was banned in 2016 the proscribed group reinvented itself north of the border as Scottish Dawn. It was banned in September 2017 after an undercover investigation by The Ferret which exposed its links National Action.
Our investigation included covert filming at two SDL protests in Alloa and Wishaw, when masked Scottish Dawn members supported their far right counterparts.
Last August one of the SDL’s members was caught with a bomb-making kit in his Edinburgh flat and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Peter Morgan, 35, from Edinburgh, had already begun assembling an improvised bomb from ball bearings, which an expert said could have caused catastrophic injuries, and had a cache of bomb-making manuals at his home.
When police raided Morgan’s flat they found a Nazi flag, far-right literature and terrorist training manuals. Morgan’s trial heard that he was “quite proud” to be part of the Scottish Defence League.
The Ferret can also reveal some background details of SDL supporters following an investigation into nearly 60 people who said they would attend the group’s last protest in Edinburgh, although we cannot name individuals for legal reasons.
Some SDL supporters expressed support for another group called the Loyalist Defence League. There was also support for the English Defence League, British National Party, Britain First, National Front and Nigel Farage, now the leader of the Brexit Party.
Several SDL supporters were from the north of England, expressing support for another far right outfit called North East Infidels. One SDL supporter listed his birthplace as “Branau” in Austria, where Adolf Hitler was born, while his likes included “Mine (sic) Kampf”, Holocaust denier David Irving, and white supremacist, David Duke, former grand wizard of US extremist group, the Ku Klux Klan.
Another SDL supporter described himself as a “far right foot soldier” and posted a photo of himself wearing balaclava with a St George’s Cross while holding a large knife.
This is good news and a big body blow for the far right Nazis in Scotland. Be in no doubt that they deserved this. Unite Against Fascism
Commenting on SDL’s ban, the campaign group Unite Against Fascism said: “This is good news and a big body blow for the far right Nazis in Scotland. Be in no doubt that they deserved this.
“Their Facebook page regularly featured horrific racist and homophobic abuse and at the recent SDL demonstration in Edinburgh their supporters had banners glorifying Hitler and the violent Combat 18 group.
“However this is not a knockout blow. The SDL have as backup Facebook page that is still running. It is good news but we must remain vigilant and oppose the far right both on the internet and on the streets.”
The anti-fascist group, Edinburgh Antifa, said: “Jack Renshaw’s participation in SDL events is just the tip of the iceberg. The group has a consistent neo-Nazi problem, alongside the openly white supremacist views of SDL members themselves.
“We have never been under any doubt that this group functions as a neo-Nazi organisation in practice, and has done so for most of its history. We actively confront them on this basis, and we encourage communities across Scotland to do the same wherever they go.”