Labour have accused Facebook of failing to take effective action against 11 different groups set up on its platform by alleged supporters of the party in which antisemitic content was openly shared.
The party said they had been chasing Facebook for over six months to remove openly racist material and close down the offending groups – including making the request at two official meetings with representatives from the social media giant.
One of the groups of particular concern is a self-identifying “pro-Labour” group set up in 2010, before Jeremy Corbyn became leader, where one individual in particular, Mossabir Ali, who was expelled from by the party for flagrant antisemitism, has been posting a drip-feed of antisemitic content.
Party sources said that staff in Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit initiated contact with Facebook in August 2019 to express concern over 11 groups on the platform.
The meeting followed an earlier attempt by General Secretary Jennie Formby in 2018 to force administrators and moderators of self-identified Labour-supporting Facebook groups who were identifiable as Labour members to better control the content within those groups to ensure that antisemitism and other forms of prejudice were not given a platform.
While there were some improvements, said Labour, antisemitic content was still circulated in many of the groups.
At a meeting in October 2019, party staff provided Facebook with four reports totalling 100 pages in length relating to the 11 groups.
These reports included 250 pieces of evidence of the antisemitic content being shared, and identified the key individuals spreading prejudice within these online networks.
One month later, after campaigner Rachel Riley submitted evidence on one of these groups, “Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies”, Facebook finally took action and closed the group down, more than two years after the Community Security Trust first reported it.
Concerned with Facebook’s apparent failure to act against other groups, Labour said they initiated a further meeting with Facebook on 11 February 2020, and provided more evidence.
Labour said the criteria which Facebook has outlined - such as the administrators posting the offensive content and for the offensive content to specifically show hostility towards Jews - was met in the cases outlined.
They added that Facebook assured them they would re-examine the reports again but have yet to offer any further guidance on their efforts.
In last week’s BBC2 documentary Confronting Holocaust Denial, David Baddiel met Facebook’s Head of Policy Solutions, Baron Richard Allen, who was a Lib Dem MP and is now a Lib Dem peer.
He defended Facebook’s position of not banning Holocaust denial from the platform because they did not wish to censor “things that different people get wrong.”
A Labour Party source said: “The party is taking action against individual Labour members over antisemitism but we don’t have the power to police the internet. Facebook needs to step up to stamp out hate on their platform.”
A Facebook company spokesperson said: “We have a set of rules, called our Community Standards, which make very clear that there is absolutely no place for hate speech on Facebook.
"Since these groups and pages were brought to our attention, we have started a thorough investigation and, to date, have removed multiple accounts and pieces of violating content.
“These are very difficult issues and we know that there is content here which, while not against our rules, is still offensive. That is why we are constantly developing and reviewing our policies, and consulting with organisations here in the UK and around the world, to try to ensure we’re getting it right.
"We are currently exploring what additional steps we can take to enhance our rules in this area, particularly in cases like this which involve hateful stereotypes.”