Social media giant Facebook is now doubling its efforts to quash hate speech and violence on its platforms, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The social media company purged almost 200 accounts from its platform – all of which were associated with notorious White supremacy groups. Some of these groups, according to the report, even pushed their members to arm themselves and crash protests against police brutality and racism.
“We saw that these groups were planning to rally supporters and members to physically go to the protests and in some cases were preparing to go with weapons,” Brian Fishman, Facebook’s director of counterterrorism and dangerous organizations policy, said in an interview with AP. (Related: Have Google, Facebook bought off DC conservative think tanks?)
Facebook and its image-sharing platform Instagram removed accounts associated with the groups Proud Boys and American Guard, both of which have been banned previously from the social media platform for violating its rules against hate speech.
Facebook, however, did not provide details about where the account users were located, or what they may have planned to do at the protests.
Meanwhile, a Reuters report also revealed that the social media platform will no longer actively promote all mentions of the word “Boogaloo,” a term coined by extremists to refer to a potential U.S. civil war or the collapse of civilization.
According to Facebook, this means that users will find it much harder to locate user groups associated with the term.
This decision, announced by the company Thursday, came after federal authorities in Nevada charged three men with conspiracy to cause destruction during demonstrations in Las Vegas.
The men were found to be associated with the far-right group “Boogaloo” movement.
“Violent instigators have hijacked peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, including Nevada, exploiting the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said.
Facebook, through a spokeswoman, said it started making the changes early last week.
“We felt we needed to take this action given discussions of the potential use of violence,” the spokeswoman, whose identity has been withheld by Reuters for her protection, said.
According to the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), an independent nonprofit of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports instances of misinformation and “hate speech” across social media, the Boogaloo movement has adherents on mainstream internet platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as sites such as Reddit and 4chan.
NCRI, in its report, noted that extremists who identified with the movement would push anti-government and anti-law enforcement messages across social media platforms through the use of memes or images – a tactic that has been dubbed “memetic warfare.”
An NBC News report, meanwhile, said the current boogaloo movement was first brought to the attention of extremism researchers in 2019 after several fringe groups began using the term to refer to what they think is an impending civil and race war.
As cited in the Reuters report, an advocacy group called the Tech Transparency Project was one of the first to send out a warning on social media that several adherents of the Boogaloo movement were discussing taking up arms in order to “liberate” states from restrictions brought about by COVID-19-related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
According to the project, those affiliated with the Boogaloo movement often identify with white nationalist and supremacist groups such as gun rights advocates, while some are members of private militias.
In its report, the project noted that most of those who are affiliated with the Boogaloo movement often see the public health lockdowns and other directives by states and cities throughout the United States as “a violation of their rights” and that they are aiming to harness public frustration at such measures to rally and attract new followers to their cause.
Social media censorship?
Despite being promoted as one of the social media network’s attempts at quelling problematic pages and accounts, some users think Facebook’s recent actions may be part of a plan to paint conservative and right-wing voices as online boogeymen.
However, the report by NCRI, according to authorities, lends credence to Facebook’s decision, noting that extremists affiliated with the Boogaloo movement have used the social media platform to not just strategize, but also to share instructions on how to create explosives and 3D print firearms, as well as distribute illegal firearm modifications, and siphon users en masse into encrypted messaging boards.
“We’ve been studying trends around this and related terms on Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook said in a statement published in NBC, adding that the social media platform does not allow speech used to incite hate or violence and that it will remove any content that violates their policies.
Earlier this year, the social media platform also removed a network of pages, accounts and groups that push the QAnon theory. According to Facebook, the said network was taken down for violating the site’s policies against “coordinated, inauthentic behavior.”
Author: Michael Alexander