Have loyalists finally taken the fun out of Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD)?
Here is LAD’s own brief timeline: founded in December 2012 at the height of the flag protests, it was unpublished and then republished in July 2013 in anticipation of further protests. After acquiring 6000 likes, it was then removed from Facebook amid claims of sexual content (LAD claim there has never been any). They then launched LAD 2, getting 3,000 likes in a week and were then unpublished (as reported in the Irish News). After this they launched LAD3, which Facebook quickly unpublished. Facebook then re-instated it and then removed it again within 24 hours. LAD4 was launched next, which Facebook unpublished on 6th October after a mass reporting campaign by loyalists. LAD5 was then launched on 6th October, got 3,000 likes in 12 hours then was removed without explanation. LAD6 lasted less than three hours.
You can view excerpts from Facebook posts by loyalists urging others to report LAD here or see a typical example below.
For those who have any doubt about who they are, LAD’s own explanation is:
We exist to satirise the extremist dickheads within society who are intent on dragging Northern Ireland back to the bad old days. The six people who put LAD together are from across the political/religious spectrum and we do this for no financial reward.
— Patrick Hines (@Quizo1) October 8, 2013
The obvious (and insane) paradox at the centre of this is that the offensive material being reported on the various LAD Facebook pages was being reported by the people who made the original statements on Facebook. Since Facebook uses a series of bots to register reports and complaints, they utilise a computer-based reporting profile that automatically determines when sufficient complaints have been received to close a page. Facebook simply doesn’t have the staff to manually monitor and adjudicate each individual complaint it receives.
Having repeatedly had it’s page taken down by loyalist Facebook users who know how to work the system exposes a fragility of satire: what happens when you satirise those who are beyond being satirised? As Brian John Spencers first guest post on LAD blog stated:
You either stand up and show the nonsense for what it is, or you capitulate to the enemies of modernity and let all the good that has come to the north of Ireland unravel.
What LAD has amassed over its various incarnations, is a significant archive of online comments, many plainly offensive and some clearly breaching legal guidelines. Having now reached an impasse on Facebook, it seems LAD may have to do what it exhorted others to do in terms of showing leadership. To do that, it may have to significantly break character and issue a complaint to the PSNI about some of the loyalist posters on Facebook including the evidence as posted online. While guidelines on social media with a stiff test for prosecution now exist, recent cases, such as Tony Perrins, included threats and language not markedly different from that found on many of the Facebook posts LAD lampoons.
While the comedy talent in LAD will outdoubtedly resurface elsewhere, it seems that it is time the loyalist protestors stopped being treated as a joke and were finally exposed to the rigours of the law.