An article was published in the Independent on Monday claiming that “right wingers are creating their own safe spaces” on Facebook.
However, the article was subsequently stealth removed after factual errors were noted by the members of the closed Facebook group it referred to; primarily that he was not removed for “no reason,” but, according to the admins, for calling another member a “dirty c***.”
The author, Marcus Nield, a “freelance environmental journalist” according to his Twitter, wrote that the Young Liberal Society “was bursting at the seams with odes to neoliberalism and the Hayekian utopia of privatisation.” Nield claimed that “at least half of opening posts included a poll for members to vote on issues with which there was always unwavering consensus. [He] posted that it seemed ironic to berate safe spaces while these endless polls were only serving to validate existing beliefs by providing a satisfying self-reflection. The group seemed no different to the kind of safe space they apoplectically despised.” Nield then noted that he was immediately banned for this.
However, the article was taken down shortly after it was posted into Young Liberal Society, as members contacted The Independent to correct some of the glaring errors in the article itself. William Bates told Breitbart News that, rather than being right-wing, “YLS is a discussion forum run by a team led by a moderate Labour member… and has relatively fair rules regarding freedom of speech.”
Nield was also allegedly removed for calling another member a “dirty c***,” not questioning the identity of the group. In an email to Bates, Kirsty Major, the Independent Voices Commissioning Editor, told him that the article had been passed on to the managing editor to deal with the complaint. Shortly after, the article was deleted with no mention of its existence; the link now redirects to the Independent Voices page. According to an unnamed source, the article was removed due to its “poisonous” nature.
The head admin Robbie Travers released a statement to Breitbart News regarding the incident:
The Independent made a serious mistake in publishing this article. They claim the individual contacted me several times seeking a comment – they never did. They allowed the forum and targets of their article no chance to respond and yet the claim they did. They also made several incorrect statements about myself being the sole admin. They also wrongly suggested that the group is full of right wing individuals, and incorrectly stated that he was removed without doing anything, when they were in fact removed for racist and misogynist language towards a woman of colour. I’m sure the Independent would regret publishing an individual who omitted to mention this. And all this whilst including a description of me from my profile pictures via captions. This is damaging. There seems to have been no editorial oversight to this and I shall be contacting the Independent seeking a remedy for the damage caused.
The Independent has restored the original article with the following note:
Update. This article was originally published on Monday 30 January. Shortly afterwards, it was temporarily taken down following a complaint from the Young Liberal Society. Following investigation, The Independent is satisfied that the article should be republished. One change has been to the article to make clear that the person Marcus Nield contacted for information about why his account had been banned is one of several administrators of the group, not the only one. Having asked the YLS numerous questions about this matter The Independent has finally been told that Mr Nield’s account was blocked because it was being operated under a nom-de-plume and without a full-face avatar. No questions were asked of him before the account was banned to confirm that it was pseudonymous. Mr Nield notes that numerous members of the group operate under apparent pseudonyms and without full-face avatars. The Independent has seen evidence that he received several hostile responses from other members to the post about polls described in the article above. It was shortly after these hostile comments were made that his account was blocked. The administrator referred to in the article says he was unable to offer Mr Nield a contemporaneous explanation of why his account had been blocked for technical reasons, though he points out he responded to Mr Nield’s initial request for an answer by saying he would “ask the group”.