December 4, 2021


Future Technology

Facebook bans boogaloo groups, but some smaller groups remain

This patch was sewn onto a ballistic vest that was recovered by the FBI when it was investigating an alleged murder by a boogaloo member. The patch has an igloo and Hawaiian-style print, which are both popular boogaloo symbols.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Facebook has changed course on its stance on the boogaloo movement. The social media company announced Tuesday that it was banning groups associated with the far-right extremist movement labeling it a “dangerous organization.” Previously, Facebook said it wouldn’t remove such groups.

As a result of Tuesday’s announcement, the company said it took down a core set of 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages and 106 groups that were affiliated with the boogaloo movement. It also removed an additional 400 groups and 100 Pages that contained similar content but were maintained by accounts outside of the core boogaloo network.

“In order to make Facebook as inhospitable to this violent US-based anti-government network as possible, we conducted a strategic network disruption of their presence,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “This is the latest step in our commitment to ban people who proclaim a violent mission from using our platform.”

Facebook says it doesn’t allow hate speech, racism, harassment, white nationalist or white separatist content on its site, and it will remove any posts or comments that violate those policies. But a lot still gets through Facebook’s censors, including an alleged murder that was planned by boogaloo members on its platform and countless groups dedicated to spreading racist memes and misinformation

Over the past week, Facebook has come under increasing pressure to better police and fully remove such content. A group of civil rights organizations launched an ad boycott against the company called “Stop Hate for Profit.” The social network makes nearly all of its money from ads, last year it brought in more than $70 billion in ad revenue. More than 100 brands have joined on, including major ones like Clorox, Unilever, Verizon, Adidas, Ford, Denny’s, Volkswagen, Microsoft, North Face, Patagonia, Chobani and more.

The boycott comes after the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed it discovered two alleged boogaloo members who reportedly conspired in a Facebook group to murder federal security guards in Oakland, California. The alleged attack was coordinated to take place during protests over police violence on May 29. The incident led to one guard being killed and another getting seriously injured.

The boogaloo movement is loosely knit and strongly opposed to law enforcement. The name comes from the 1984 cult film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo and is used ironically to refer to a second civil war. Some members stay staunchly focused on anti-government activities and rhetoric, while others slide into white supremacist or neo-Nazi ideologies. Several boogaloo members have taken their activities offline over the past couple of months and have been arrested for various crimes, including building pipe bombs and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

After the killing in Oakland, Facebook said it’d still allow boogaloo groups to remain active on its platform. It said it stopped recommending boogaloo groups through its sidebar algorithm earlier this month and had long removed content that depicted armed violence.

“This network appears to be based across various locations in the US, and the people within it engage with one another on our platform,” Facebook wrote in its blog post on Tuesday. “It is actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement and government officials and institutions.”

While Facebook has now banned boogaloo groups from its site, some offshoot groups appear to still be active. JJ MacNab, a researcher on anti-government extremist organizations at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said on Twitter that she found several “igloo” groups still on the site. Igloo is a reference to boogaloo.

“‘Big Igloo Bois: you wanted a group so screw it here ya go’ is gone. It was a private group with roughly 34,000+ members,” MacNab tweeted on Tuesday. “Smaller igloo groups are still in place.”

Such groups include “Igloo of the big luau,” “Western states igloo association” and “Captain Ping’s big igloo cruise.” MacNab noted some of these accounts were making backup plans. Members anticipated being shut down, so they announced alternative pages that members could join.

MacNab didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Facebook implied that removing all boogaloo accounts, pages and groups would likely be a game of whack-a-mole. The company said it will work to spot attempts of members returning to the platform and will study new language and symbols that boogaloo members may use to cloak their affiliation. 

“We expect to see adversarial behavior from this network including people trying to return to using our platform and adopting new terminology,” Facebook wrote in its blog post. “So long as violent movements operate in the physical world, they will seek to exploit digital platforms.”

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