YouTube defends decision to keep Tommy Robinson on its site.
YouTube has defended its decision to keep Tommy Robinson on its platform, arguing that the far-right activist’s content on its site is fundamentally different from the posts that led Facebook and Instagram to delete his account last week.
Additionally, Amazon has removed one of Robinson’s books, Mohammed’s Koran: Why Muslims Kill For Islam, from sale. His autobiography remains on the site. The company confirmed its decision to the Guardian, saying that “we reserve the right not to sell certain inappropriate content”.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, posts live streams to YouTube about once or twice a week, sent with a feature that lets users pay to have their comments highlighted in live chat threads – revenue which is kept by YouTube, after the company “demonetised” Robinson’s videos in January.Advertisement
In his most recent video, posted shortly after a legal letter was delivered to his home threatening libel action by lawyers representing a Syrian refugee filmed being pushed to the ground and having water poured on his face at school, Robinson noted that he had stayed scrupulously within the rules of YouTube. “My YouTube account has zero community strikes,” he said, “and zero copyright strikes. I’ve done nothing and said nothing wrong.”
YouTube limits the functionality available to an account if it receives one strike for violating the site’s community guidelines, and deletes the account entirely if it receives three in a 90-day window.
According to YouTube’s own hate speech policies, Robinson would have received a strike if he used the site in the way Facebook says he used his Facebook and Instagram accounts. There, Facebook said, Robinson “posted material that uses dehumanising language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims”.
YouTube’s policies also ban content “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on religion. But in the videos Robinson has posted to the site, he does not break that rule. YouTube said the content available on its site differed from the material that led to him being banned from other platforms.
YouTube has taken some enforcement actions against Robinson. Since January, the activist’s videos have been “demonetised”, meaning they do not have adverts running before or during them.
That decision also cuts Robinson off from other monetisation features on the site, including “Super Chat”, a feature that lets users pay money to highlight their comments during live streams. In one recent live stream, lasting a quarter of an hour, users from eight countries paid more than £500 to highlight their messages to Robinson, including more than $200 (£152) in US dollars, almost $100 (£54) from Australia, and a number of donations from Nordic countries. YouTube sources say that Robinson will not see a penny of that.
Instead, a substantial source of income is the money donated directly to Robinson on his personal website, to which he has been directing fans following Facebook’s decision last week. There, a donation form powered by US startup Donorbox solicits donations from £5 to £100.
In December, Donorbox pulled support for Robinson after he began fundraising to support the schoolboy accused of assaulting the 15-year-old Syrian refugee.
Donorbox has not explained why it changed its policies to allow Robinson to resume using its site. The company has not replied to requests for comment from the Guardian.
Amazon’s decision to pull Robinson’s book was similarly unexplained. In a statement, the company said: “As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable. That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain inappropriate content.”