Facebook condemned for hosting neo-Nazi network with UK links

Guardian Technology 22 Nov 2020 07:15
Ukraine-based Azov Battalion has sought to export its extreme ideology to the west. Photograph: Sergei Supinsky/Getty

A white supremacist network with more than 80,000 followers and links to the UK far right, including a student charged with terrorist offences, is being hosted by Facebook and Instagram, putting the world’s largest social media company under fresh pressure to tackle extremism.

The network, which includes more than 40 neo-Nazi sites, offers merchandise including NaziSS symbols and stickers praising Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager under investigation for shooting dead two Black Lives Matter protesters in Wisconsin in August.

According to the London-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), sales of the products fund two neo-Nazi extremist movements operating from Ukraine: Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division. A number of UK far-right activists are believed to have been recruited by Azov Battalion to fight in the conflict in Ukraine.

A British man is facing trial accused of 12 terror offences after police found him in possession of extremist material, including clothing and flags linked to Misanthropic Division. The student denies the charges.

Azov Battalion and Misanthropic Division appear to be trying to export their ideology to the west, with reports of links between the latter and “like-minded” groups, such as the proscribed UK terror organisation National Action. The Soufan Center, an anti-terrorism thinktank, estimates that 10 “foreign fighters” from the UK have served with Ukrainian militia like Azov Battalion, which uses slick propaganda videos in the manner of extremist groups such as Islamic State. Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi paramilitary force, is also known to have hosted members of the Rise Above Movement, a far-right US group whose members were jailed for violence at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

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