Facebook and PayPal delete 'yellow vest' organiser James Goddard's accounts after abuse of MPs outside parliament

Technology firms react amid mounting calls for action to stop 'harassment' in Westminster 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 08 January 2019 18:00

Facebook and PayPal accounts used to organise “yellow vest” protests that have seen MPs verbally abused in Westminster have been deleted.

Organiser James Goddard's Facebook profile disappeared amid calls for police to prevent the group from “harassing” politicians, journalists and pro-EU protesters.

His PayPal account was disabled a short time later on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Goddard had used his Facebook page to call “yellow vest” protests that have been taking place for the past month in London and other UK cities, and livestream demonstrations to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Although the UK “yellow vest” group has a separate page, Mr Goddard has been instrumental in organising demonstrations that started in December.

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We have removed James Goddard’s Facebook pages and groups for violating our policies on hate speech. We will not tolerate hate speech on Facebook which creates an environment of intimidation and which may provoke real-world violence.”

Writing on Twitter, where his account remained live at the time of publication, Mr Goddard claimed Facebook had “silenced” him.

He posted a link to his PayPal page asking for donations from supporters to fund further “yellow vest” protests, but the account was disabled minutes later.

Mr Goddard accused companies of "double standards" and tweeted: "Do you actually think you’re going to stop me! I take great offence at being called far right and fascist!"

Smoke bombs set off outside London's Downing Street by far-right 'yellow vest' protesters

Previously asked whether Mr Goddard’s activities violated the PayPal's terms and conditions, a spokesperson told The Independent: “Due to our privacy policy, we cannot comment on any specific customer’s account.

“However, we do review accounts that have been flagged to us for possible breaches of our policies, and we will take action if appropriate.”

PayPal recently banned Tommy Robinson from its services, saying it did not allow them to be used to “promote hate, violence or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory”.

The “yellow vests” have blocked bridges and roads in London protests, while supporters held rallies in cities across the UK this week.

After the group’s first protest on 14 December, Mr Goddard wrote on Facebook that he would be “confronting the Remoaners at Parliament and challenging the corrupt establishment” six days a week.

Posting a link to his PayPal, he claimed: “I’m not in this to make money, I’m in it because I genuinely believe in what I say.”

Mr Goddard has previously made speeches in support of Tommy Robinson at protests, and was known for arguing with Muslims at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.

In September, a video showed him telling a Muslim man that he wanted to “ban Islam in the West” and “get rid” of all mosques in the UK.

“I ever got into power I’d give you [Muslims] all £5-£10,000 and ask you to leave,” Mr Goddard added. I don’t believe that Islam should be in the West.”

Other “yellow vest” protesters have included former supporters of groups including the English Defence League, Britain First and anti-Islam Pegida UK.

More than 60 MPs have called on police to prevent them from “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” towards MPs, journalists and pro-Remain protesters outside parliament.

But officers have no power to remove the group from outside the Houses of Parliament or any other public place unless they are committing a crime, or a specific court order is made.

Scotland Yard is investigating whether an incident where pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry was followed and called a “traitor” amounts to a crime but no arrests have yet been made. Five “yellow vest” protesters have been arrested in unrelated incidents.

Extra police officers were stationed around entrances to parliament and ongoing protests on Tuesday, as a senior officer said Scotland Yard had to balance safety and freedom of speech.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor for Met Operations said: “Our role is to facilitate peaceful protest and balance the needs and rights of all those present, including protestors, MPs and members of the public.

“We will deal robustly with incidents of harassment and abuse against anyone where that harassment or abuse constitutes a criminal offence.

“Officers in the area have been briefed to intervene appropriately where they hear or see breaches of the law.”

Particular concern has been raised about the frequent use of the insults “traitor” and “treason”, following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.

Mr Goddard claimed his group had “got the government rattled” and vowed to continue protests.

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