Facebook Suspends Anti-Racist Skinheads and Ska Musicians for Reasons Unknown

By Whitney Kimball on at

For years, activists and media have supplied Facebook with a long menu of white supremacist groups to target, and to its credit, it’s finally budging a little (emphasis on little). Last week, Facebook deactivated nearly 200 accounts tied to the white supremacist groups the Proud Boys and the American Guard. Facebook is being proactive, and now it’s chosen to go after...uh...skinheads. All skinheads, be they anti-fascist, anti-racist, or just ska fans.

Various outlets have reported that, in a sweeping Monday night raid, Facebook suspended hundreds of skinhead-associated accounts. OneZero reports that that included vocalist Clara Byrne from the ska/dub/reggae band Dakka Shanks and British music journalist Guy Shankland. Journalist Garry Bushell tweeted this week that Facebook “closed 100s of UK accounts with any link to skinhead culture.” A redditor hypothesised that Facebook even suspended people who’d merely liked or followed S.H.A.R.P., Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, and people who followed streetpunk bands.

Most notably, they deplatformed Neville Staple (pictured above) of The Specials, whose case is a perfect example of Facebook’s misunderstanding of subculture. The Specials were foundational in the 2 Tone genre, which, Pitchfork has noted, embraced diversity against a rise in white nationalism and attracted an early skinhead following before racists co-opted the culture. “Please look into things before doing a general cull,” Staple tweeted at Facebook yesterday. “Unity runs through the veins of me & @SugaryStaple plus all our 2Tone Ska community’s veins!” Neville’s wife, artist Sugary Staple, was also suspended.

The Staples’ accounts have since been reinstated. Facebook has not responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but they told the BBC that their accounts were removed “in error.” The company also told OneZero that they were looking into the other cases but did not elaborate on their rationale.

OneZero, which reviewed Facebook’s communications, said that Facebook asked some users with deactivated accounts to share their photo ID, which it has lately started checking in cases of suspected inauthentic behaviour. That includes evading enforcement under Facebook’s Community Standards. Facebook has been overly blunt with the “inauthentic behaviour” banhammer in the past. In 2018, the company removed pages promoting a legitimate anti-“Unite the Right 2.0" rally, which did indeed involve an inauthentic admin (unbeknownst to fellow organisers), but Facebook opted to toss the entire legitimate organising effort that stemmed from it.

Facebook’s internal, unprompted decision to target these musicians says more about its political cowardice than a desire to wipe out dangerous groups. The company has, for years, kowtowed to political bullies, even making internal top-level decisions to preserve propaganda on its platform to appease conservatives. It’s taken years for Facebook to de-platform the American Guard, which was seen brandishing race war symbols along with Trump supporters in 2017. And despite numerous alarms from media and advocacy groups about pro-gun pages supporting an armed uprising, the company decided last week that those can stay, but Facebook will just stop actively promoting them.

Featured image: Getty