Facebook and Instagram have blocked the accounts of two Italian neo-fascist groups for "organised hate" on their services.
Accounts and pages linked to far-right activists and non-governmental organisations associated with CasaPound Italia and Forza Nuova have also been removed.
In a statement to Euronews, a Facebook company spokesperson stated that "people and organisations who spread hate or attack others on the basis of who they are have no place on Facebook and Instagram."
Facebook confirmed to Euronews that they have a policy on "dangerous individuals and organizations, which sets out that we do not allow those who are engaged in "organised hate" to use our services."
"Political parties and candidates, like all individuals and organizations on Facebook and Instagram, must adhere to these rules, regardless of their ideology. The accounts we have banned today violate this policy, and they will no longer be allowed a presence on Facebook or Instagram."
‘A deliberate attack on public and democratic debate”
CasaPound Italia’s main Facebook page had nearly 240,000 followers, and its members have told Euronews the removal of their content is an "absurd decision".
The party’s leader Simone Di Stefano denounced the decision on his Twitter account, calling the move "abuse by a private multinational in contempt of Italian law".
Alberto Palladino, a National Board member of CasaPound Italia, told Euronews the removal of the accounts was a "deliberate attack on public and democratic debate".
"We are now outside the biggest channel of political communication with no acceptable reason. This is an attack against the freedom of speech of European citizens who are just expressing their opinions."
But many analysts say that it is up to Facebook to decide what content and actors are allowed on their platform.
"Facebook is a multinational private company and what it decides to put on its platform is within the bounds of what it wants to do for its corporate interests," Michael Bossetta, a political scientist at Lunds University in Sweden, told Euronews.
Alberto Palladino described this as a "nuclear bomb" for CasaPound Italia’s communication strategy.
“Exemplary motivation to support a fair and courageous choice”
However, the groups’ political opponents have applauded the move, with former lower house speaker and left-wing lawmaker Laura Boldrini calling it "another step towards the end of an organised season of hatred on social networks".
The President of Lazio, Nicola Zingaretti, said that Facebook had expressed "exemplary motivation to support a fair and courageous choice".
Bossetta said the move to block accounts follows a pattern seen across Europe, where social media companies have increased efforts to remove dangerous content.
"Removing these accounts hurts [the party’s] attempts to organise, especially on Facebook — it decreases their ability to organise online — and on Instagram, it decreases their reach for propaganda," he added.
Facebook has previously allowed paid political advertisements from CasaPound pages to be displayed on their platform as recently as the 2019 European Parliamentary elections in May.
CasaPound Italia have insisted they have never promoted or shared hate speech on Facebook.
Anti-immigrant campaigning on social media
Forza Nuova leader Roberto Fiore confirmed his movement’s profiles had also gone dark, and said his group would respond with street protests and recruitment.
On Monday, CasaPound and Forza Nuova supporters took part in a protest outside parliament to demand snap elections after the center-left Democratic Party replaced the far-right League in a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
CasaPound and Forza Nuova have boosted their profile in Italy by leading anti-migrant campaigns on their social media sites.
Official Twitter pages linked to CasaPound and Forza Nuova are still active and Euronews has contacted Twitter for a statement on this.