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Facebook expels alt-right figurehead

Richard SpencerImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption A speech by Mr Spencer on the University of Florida's campus proved controversial in 2017

Facebook has banned the American white nationalist who popularised the term "alternative right".

Richard Spencer's page on the social network was removed on Friday along with two other pages he controlled: that of his National Policy Institute think tank, and one promoting his news analysis website.

Facebook has not commented, but the BBC understands the blocks are permanent.

Mr Spencer continues to have active accounts on Twitter and YouTube.

Facebook's action follows its decision to expel the anti-Islamic group Britain First and its leaders last month.

The US-based technology giant's terms and conditions state that it does not permit "hate speech", which it defines as including content that directly attacks people because of their race or ethnicity.

Last week, Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, told Congress that the "question of what is hate speech versus what is legitimate political speech" was an issue that he and his team "struggle with continuously".

Raised arms

Mr Spencer has denied being a "white supremacist", but has spoken in favour of creating a North American country restricted to white people. He has also said he was proud of slavery, and has described Islam as being a "black flag".

The 39-year-old has been active in far-right politics for about a decade and claims to have created the phrase "alternative right" for a magazine headline. The article's author has said they in fact "co-created" the term.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionAleem Maqbool reports on an "alt-right" event where Richard Spencer said: "Hail Trump," and supporters gave Nazi salutes

However, he rose to prominence in 2016 when he was filmed celebrating President Trump's election victory by shouting: "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory," to an audience, some of whom responded with Nazi-like salutes.

Mr Spencer was also filmed making a similar gesture at a karaoke bar that same year.

He then played a prominent role in 2017's Charlottesville protests, where he opposed the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E Lee.

Subsequent speeches at the University of Florida and Michigan State University's campuses sparked protests of their own.

Facebook's decision to act now does not appear to have been triggered by a fresh event involving Mr Spencer.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Mr Spencer's Facebook pages now display an error message

Rather, Vice News has suggested that the move was a response to a question it had fielded about why Facebook had not already taken such action.

The news site reported that another page belonging to the far-right Nationalist Initiative had also been blocked.

Twitter briefly suspended Mr Spencer in 2016, but said it had done so only because he had run multiple accounts.

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