Facebook announced Tuesday that it will remove groups dedicated to the extremist Boogaloo movement a month after federal officials alleged that followers of the anti-government network used the platform to plan the murder of a federal agent.
The social media giant said it removed 220 Facebook groups from Boogaloo and 95 Instagram accounts that violated its policies against organized violence. He said 400 additional groups that were tangentially associated with the movement would also be eliminated.
“Today we are designating a violent US-based anti-government network as a dangerous organization and banning it from our applications. This network uses the term boogaloo but is different from the broader and less affiliated boogaloo movement because it actively seeks to commit violence.” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in a statement.
In May, federal officials alleged that Steven Carrillo killed a federal security officer during protests in Oakland, California, against the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Carrillo allegedly planned the attack with a man he met on a Boogaloo Facebook group and aimed to use protesters to “support our own cause” of a second Civil War.
The Boogaloo is a movement of heavily armed, mostly conservative, libertarian militias with extreme anti-government views advocating a violent uprising aimed primarily at law enforcement. The movement, which has strong ties to current and former military members, has grown to tens of thousands of followers since January, primarily on Facebook groups.
Several self-proclaimed “boogaloo boys” have been arrested in recent months on charges of crimes including the murder of law enforcement officers and the planning of terrorist attacks in the Black Lives Matter protests.
Carrillo was arrested a week later, shortly after killing a Santa Cruz County deputy in an ambush and scribbling the word “boog” on his own blood on the hood of a car.
Carrillo’s arrest was one of several Boogaloo-related arrests across the country in the past two months. In Las Vegas, three men were charged with state and federal conspiracy offenses to cause destruction and possession of explosives during protests scheduled for May.
The Facebook announcement comes amid several crises at the company. A growing chorus of Facebook employees has spoken out against the company’s policies around the Black Lives Matter movement and the lack of policy enforcement for politicians. And a growing advertising boycott now includes Unilever, Verizon, Ford, Starbucks, and nearly 250 other advertisers.
Facebook has reacted to mounting pressure with new policies that include tagging political discourse that violates the company’s content rules and cracking down on “hateful content.”
Deleted Facebook groups are likely to splinter and regroup in smaller spaces like Parler and Telegram, a process that often disrupts growth and throws members out, according to Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at the University of Elon in North Carolina, which tracks extremism online and was monitoring private Boogaloo groups online.
“It is a classic response to network outage,” he said. “First, they will try to go to backup pages and pre-made accounts, if they have them. They will also go to known alternative platforms, and in some cases they may try to rebuild the network on entirely new platforms.”
Facebook’s move is significant and was made faster than previous actions against white nationalist groups, Squire said.
“But this ban will not be complete or perfect,” he said. “They will miss things and probably apply their standards unevenly. So we have to keep watching. This is not over.”
Facebook said it worked with extremism investigators to determine its new policy.
“These acts of violence in the real world and our investigations into them are what led us to identify and designate this distinct network,” the Facebook spokesperson wrote in the statement.