Facebook said on Tuesday that it was taking down a network of accounts, groups and pages connected to an antigovernment movement in the United States that encourages violence.
People and groups associated with the decentralized movement, called boogaloo, will be banned from Facebook and Instagram, which it also owns, the company said. Facebook said it would remove 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 pages and 106 groups as a result of the decision. It is also designating boogaloo as a dangerous organization on the social network, meaning it shares the same classification as terrorist activity, organized hate and large-scale criminal organizations on Facebook.
The boogaloo network promoted “violence against civilians, law enforcement, and government officials and institutions,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Members of this network seek to recruit others within the broader boogaloo movement, sharing the same content online and adopting the same offline appearance as others in the movement to do so.”
The decision is the latest in a flurry of recent moves by tech companies to tighten the speech allowed on their popular services and more aggressively police extreme movements. The issue has become more pronounced in recent weeks after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was killed in police custody last month. The killing set off major protests across the country demanding changes to police departments and the treatment of Black people more broadly.
On Monday, Reddit said it was banning roughly 2,000 communities from across the political spectrum that attacked people or regularly engaged in hate speech, including “r/The_Donald,” a community devoted to President Trump. YouTube said barred six channels for violating its policies, including those of two prominent white supremacists, David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Facebook’s changes have largely focused on the boogaloo movement and white supremacy hate groups so far. In May, Facebook said it updated its policies to ban the use of “boogaloo” and related terms when used in posts that contain depictions of armed violence. The company has also identified over 800 posts tied to boogaloo that defied its Violence and Incitement policy and did not recommend them to other users. And this month, the company said that it had removed two networks of accounts connected to white supremacy groups that encouraged real-world violence.
Followers of the boogaloo movement seek to exploit public unrest to incite a race war that will bring about a new government. Its adherents are usually staunch defenders of the Second Amendment, and some use Nazi iconography and its extremist symbols, according to organizations that track hate groups.
“Boogaloo” is a pop culture reference derived from a 1984 movie called “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” that became a cult classic. Online, it has been connected to what some consider sarcastic and humorous memes, as well as with occasional physical violence and militaristic shows of force.
In June, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested three men in Nevada who called themselves members of the boogaloo movement, accusing them of trying to incite violence at an anti-police protest in Las Vegas. In May, police officers in Denver seized three assault rifles, magazines, several bulletproof vests and other military equipment from the car trunk of a self-identified boogaloo follower who was headed to a Black Lives Matter protest — and had previously live-streamed his support for armed confrontations with the police.
In addition to the boogaloo network, Facebook said it would also remove 400 additional groups and more than a hundred pages that also violate its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.
The company said it would continue to identify and remove attempts by members of the movement to return to the social network, the company said.
Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, applauded Facebook’s crackdown on Tuesday.
“The Dangerous Individuals policy at Facebook mirrors the language of law enforcement, and meets a high threshold of online harms that lead to direct action in the real world,” Mr. Brookie said. “Limiting the online conversation that leads to that action is a good thing and a public safety issue.”
Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and the former chief security officer at Facebook, said the decentralized nature of the boogaloo movement and its tendency to use irony and euphemism in posts could make enforcing the policy difficult.
“Deciding who is actually a boogaloo member now that they are motivated to obfuscate their allegiances will be a huge, ongoing challenge,” Mr. Stamos said.