Facebook has banned an extremist anti-government network associated with the term “boogaloo,” a jargon word that supporters use to refer to a second civil war.
Tuesday’s Facebook move designates the right-wing network “boogaloo” as a dangerous organization similar to the Islamic State group and white supremacists, who are already banned from their service.
The ban comes months after investigators began warning Facebook that the “boogaloo” groups that were flourishing on its platform were filled with people discussing violence against government officials and sharing guerilla combat tactics.
Reports from outside groups released in February and then in April warned that the “boogaloo” was a dangerous anti-government group trying to incite violence against law enforcement officials.
While Facebook started removing some “boogaloo” posts and groups this spring, it did not announce radical action against the extremist movement on its platform until after two law enforcement officers had already been killed in California.
A federal security officer was shot and killed in Oakland, California, on May 30, and a Santa Cruz sheriff’s sergeant was shot and killed on June 6. His alleged murderer had posted about the “boogaloo” on Facebook, where he also connected with the accused man as his accomplice, according to the criminal complaint against him.
As part of Tuesday’s announcement of its ban on “boogaloo”, Facebook said it has removed 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 pages and 106 groups comprising the violent affiliate network “boogaloo”. It also removed another 400 groups and 100 pages that contained content similar to the violent network, but kept on external accounts.
Facebook’s announcement of the “boogaloo” ban is a “substantive action” and “one of the most widespread and transparent network disruption actions targeted specifically at the non-state actors we’ve seen of the company,” said Alex Newhouse. , a digital researcher at the Center for Terrorism, Extremism and Counter-Terrorism at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, who has been following the “boogaloo” movement on Facebook for several months.
But Newhouse said he and other researchers had already identified at least 20 “boogaloo” groups that were still alive on Facebook after the ban, including some that were direct backups or clones of pages that had has been banned
Several researchers monitoring “boogaloo” groups on Facebook said they had already identified multiple groups that had been missed by the Facebook ban.
“As with everything Facebook does, it was too little too late,” said Katie Paul, director of the Technology Transparency Project, which produced a warning report about boogaloo groups on Facebook in April.
Facebook’s attempt to distinguish between violent and non-violent boogaloo groups was “particularly dangerous,” said Joan Donovan, director of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Policy and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
This is “a fallacy that allows some white supremacists to continue to operate while mitigating their violent rhetoric,” Donovan wrote in an email.
In announcing its new ban, Facebook also said it was still trying to distinguish between a “violent” “boogaloo” network it had banned on the platform, and what it described as a different, “broader and less affiliated” boogaloo movement. . who does not seek to commit violence.
The social network is not banning all references to “boogaloo” and said it is only removing groups, accounts and pages when they have a “clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public security.”
“The boogaloo ecosystem that gives rise to violent extremism is larger than just the network that Facebook disrupted,” Newhouse said.
Supporters of “Boogaloo” have appeared in protests over Covid-19’s lockdown orders, carrying rifles and wearing tactical gear over Hawaiian shirts. Facebook said the move dates back to 2012 and has been following it closely since last year.
Facebook said so far it has found no evidence of foreign actors amplifying material related to the “boogaloo.”
Social media companies face a trial of hate speech on their platforms. Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported Donald Trump as part of an offensive against hate speech.
Live streaming site Twitch, owned by Amazon, also temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating his hateful rules of conduct. Meanwhile, YouTube banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke, and Richard Spencer.
And the pressure is mounting on Facebook to curb Trump’s social media behavior. Facebook’s decision to allow a Trump post saying “when the looting begins the shooting begins” to remain on the platform has led to a growing boycott of advertisers including Unilever, Levi’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks.