Facebook restores an activist page but only after a threat of legal action

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Peadar O'Cearnaigh

On 4 February, Facebook restored the page of Saoradh, a left-wing Irish republican group. Saoradh threatened legal action after Facebook removed its main page on 5 August and its replacement main page on 16 December 2018.

Page removals

Facebook removed the original main page after Saoradh posted a video of a Derry Republican’s funeral. Then it removed the replacement main page after Saoradh posted a video celebrating an evicted family regaining its home. A private security firm evicted this family from its home in the west of Ireland on 11 December 2018. Then, masked men forcibly removed that security firm. Saoradh’s video stated that “an Irish anti-eviction ‘flying column’ has liberated a family home”.

But it’s not clear if there’s a connection between Saoradh’s videos and its page removals. Phoenix Law, acting on behalf of Saoradh, says Facebook didn’t provide an explanation.

Saoradh claims

In a letter seen by The Canary, Saoradh’s legal team states that Facebook Ireland Limited removed its main page. It also says the practice of removing Saoradh pages had been going on for six months.

Saoradh believes this is a breach of its right to freedom of expression. It claims this under Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Furthermore, according to this letter, it claims discrimination:

on grounds of ethnic or social origin, political or any other opinion and/or membership of a national minority and therefore infringes Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Saoradh claims that Facebook removed some of its regional pages and banned its administrators. It therefore intended to apply to the High Court for interim relief forcing Facebook to return its page.

Facebook responds

Through its solicitors, Facebook stated it:

strongly rejects… allegations that it is liable for having disabled certain pages from its social media platform

Facebook also said it:

has not discriminated against [Saoradh] on the grounds of political opinion or otherwise

And it said certain pages were removed because:

they violated the Facebook terms and policies

But Facebook still restored access to Saoradh’s page on 4 February.

Free speech

A spokesperson for Saoradh, Patrick Carty, told The Canary that this was:

an obvious climb down by Facebook and a victory for freedom of speech and for all those outside the MSM [Mainstream Media] that use social media to publish their material.

Featured Image via Esther Vargas/Flickr

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