(Image: Supplied)

A Facebook group boasting more than 33,000 members run by popular Australian YouTuber Friendlyjordies has finally been banned — for having a picture of Adolf Hitler. Friendlyjordies’ videos have been watched more than 130 million times.

After starting out making parody videos, Friendlyjordies — real name Jordan Shanks — has become increasingly political in his content over the years, culminating last year in the production of multiple videos criticising the conduct of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who has subsequently launched defamation proceedings against the YouTuber.

Facebook confirmed to Crikey that the Friendlyjordies-affiliated Common Sense Brigade Facebook group was removed for repeatedly breaking the platform’s rules. It was not related to the arrest this month of Friendjordies producer Kristo Langker for allegedly stalking and intimidating Barilaro.

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“Over the last year, we have introduced a number of measures to make groups safer, and group admins and members more accountable. This group was removed from Facebook as the admins repeatedly approved posts that violate our community standards,” a Facebook company spokesperson told Crikey via email.

Facebook representatives would not provide any more on-the-record comments about what led to the banning but Crikey understands that members of the group had shared content that broke Facebook’s policies regarding adult nudity and sexual activity, hate speech and sexual exploitation of adults , which were approved by the group’s administrators.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was an image of Hitler posted to the group that violated the company’s organised hate policy. Facebook groups that repeatedly violate the company’s policies are automatically removed.

Shanks set up Common Sense Brigade towards the end of 2020 with an explicit intention of spreading anti-Coalition and pro-Labor Party memes online.

During Facebook’s brief news ban for Australian users, Shanks instructed the group’s members to set up local Facebook community groups to covertly share pro-ALP content to “counter the effects of the Murdoch press” without disclosing their purpose.

The community was also a space for members to share news and memes about Australian politics, a common purpose for Facebook groups. Members had posted satirical images of Barilaro (along with other political figures) Photoshopped as dictators, including Hitler.

In other policies, Facebook acknowledges that satirical content is treated differently — but seemingly not here.

It is unknown exactly what the offending post was, but Crikey has seen at least one image of Barilaro Photoshopped into a photo of Hitler and Benito Mussolini, which was posted hours before the group was banned.

An image posted to the now-banned group (Image: Supplied)

Shanks and his team didn’t respond to questions about Facebook’s decision.

Online groups such as the Common Sense Brigade have become influential conduits of information on the internet. With just a few thousand active members, these groups can run calls-to-action to amplify news, undermine public narratives and inundate companies, organisations and individuals with internet activity.

(Sometimes, this is used to harass, like when Common Sense Brigades invaded and took over a Young Greens-run server for the videogame Minecraft and left a burning swastika. Shanks told Crikey that he disavowed the swastika and believed that it was done by people not affiliated with the group).

In an internet that is responsive to users’ interactions, groups like Common Sense Brigade have power by acting as a way to coordinate groups to achieve a goal. That said, they operate well within the rules of their social media platforms.

In the aftermath of the group’s banning, Shanks’ fans are finding other spaces to regroup. Several state-based Common Sense Brigade groups are still available and continue to grow into thousands of members. Another group on Facebook called “Exodus” was created by former Common Sense Brigade members, while the Friendlyjordies Discord server has also been revitalised.

Meanwhile, fans are literally taking to the streets to spread their message, as flyers calling for the immediate removal of John Barlilaro were handed out in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall on Tuesday.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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