Boogaloo crackdown: Facebook bans movement, gives it same designation as hate groups and terrorists

Facebook has removed a network of accounts, groups and pages on Facebook and Instagram connected to the “boogaloo” anti-government movement that encourages violence in the United States.

The social media giant also designated boogaloo as a dangerous organization, giving it the same classification as terrorist and hate groups.

Tuesday's move is the latest from Facebook, which, under fire from civil rights groups for the spread of hate and other harmful content on its platforms following widespread protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody last month, has become more aggressive in rooting out extremists.

Platforms from Google-owned YouTube to Reddit are also cracking down. On Monday, Reddit said it would ban some 2,000 communities that engage in hate speech, including “r/The_Donald,” which supports President Donald Trump. YouTube said this week it banned six channels for violating its policies, including those of white supremacists David Duke and Richard Spencer.

Facebook said it removed 220 Facebook accounts and 95 Instagram accounts, as well as 28 pages and 106 groups in the purge. In addition, it took down over 400 additional groups and over 100 additional pages for violating its policy on “dangerous individuals and organizations.”

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In a blog post Tuesday, Facebook said it targeted the boogaloo network which aims to overthrow the government because it was “actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement and government officials and institutions.”

Late Tuesday, BuzzFeed News said it uncovered several pieces of paid content related to the boogaloo movement on Facebook and Instagram.

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii; and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., pressed Facebook on Tuesday about the presence of white supremacist groups and extremist content on its platforms.

“The United States is going through a long-overdue examination of the systemic racism prevalent in our society. Americans of all races, ages, and backgrounds have bravely taken to the streets to demand equal justice for all,” they wrote in a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “While Facebook has attempted to publicly align itself with this movement, its failure to address the hate spreading on its platform reveals significant gaps between Facebook’s professed commitment to racial justice and the company’s actions and business interests.”

What is the 'boogaloo' movement?

The "boogaloo" movement – named for a 1980s breakdancing movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” and characterized by members who carry weapons and tactical gear and wear Hawaiian shirts – looks to exploit unrest to start a second civil war.

The loosely organized group has different wings. One has ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists and wants to destroy the government by starting a race war, the other is radical libertarian and believes in defending the rights of individuals and has been known to incite violence against police.

The Tech Transparency Project, a public research and data initiative, identified roughly 125 Facebook groups related to the movement, more than half of which were created between February and April and had recently attracted tens of thousands of members.

"Online extremists are using Facebook to plan and organize for a militant uprising in the United States as they cast coronavirus lockdowns as a sign of rising government suppression," according to a Tech Transparency Project investigation.

Facebook had already taken steps to limit the reach of these groups. In May, it banned the use of the term boogaloo and related words when they accompany pictures of weapons and calls to action. Facebook also said it would no longer recommend such groups to members of similar associations.

An Air Force sergeant, who prosecutors claim has ties to boogaloo, faces murder charges in the deaths of a California sheriff's deputy and a federal security officer. He also is accused of wounding five other law enforcement officers.

In March, a Missouri man with ties to neo-Nazis was shot and killed when FBI agents tried to arrest him. Timothy Wilson, 36, was planning to bomb a hospital in the Kansas City area on the day that a stay-at-home order was scheduled to take effect, authorities said. Wilson told an undercover FBI agent that his goal was “to kick-start a revolution” and referred to his plans as “operation boogaloo,” according to an agent’s affidavit.

In May, three alleged boogaloo members were arrested on terrorism-related charges in what federal prosecutors say was a conspiracy to spark violence during protests in Las Vegas over reopening businesses and George Floyd's death. Authorities allege the three white men filled gas cans and made Molotov cocktails in glass bottles and were headed to a Black Lives Matter protest, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.

Contributing: Khrysgiana Pineda and Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boogaloo banned by Facebook, designated 'dangerous' organization