By David Uberti and Rachael Levy
Facebook Inc. has classified a large segment of the boogaloo movement as a dangerous organization and banned it from its network, in the tech company's broadest move yet against the group.
The company said in a blog post it removed more than 300 Facebook and Instagram accounts and 106 groups tied to a boogaloo-affiliated network "that actively seeks to commit violence." The removals came alongside an additional takedown of 400 groups and 100 pages that hosted content broadly supportive of the boogaloo movement.
Composed mostly of young white males who often call themselves "boogaloo bois," the loose-knit movement grew its ranks in recent years on social media, mainly Facebook.
Its adherents views' are wide-ranging, with a focus on overturning authority, according to researchers who track extremist organizations. Some have supported anti-racism protests against police brutality in recent months, but others are white supremacists who hold antigovernment views, believe strongly in gun rights and traffic in conspiracy theories, researchers said.
The movement appears to have no leader or central structure.
Facebook's ban on Tuesday comes after some employees staged a virtual walkout in early June over the decision to leave up a post about nationwide demonstrations by President Trump that said, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." Civil rights groups have since criticized Facebook over its approach to hate speech, while several corporations, including Verizon Communications Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., pulled advertising from the platform in protest.
Facebook removed the boogaloo accounts after a targeted investigation by human analysts, officials said. The social-media giant has increasingly turned to the tactic to assess networks that actively try to avoid its automated tools to monitor content.
Those systems rely on "hashes," or digital fingerprints that identify extremist propaganda and artificial intelligence-based "classifiers" trained to evaluate content like a human reviewer. They proved effective at minimizing jihadist groups such as the Islamic State on the platform in recent years.
But human-led takedowns could be more important for far-right or white supremacist groups, company officials said. Such content tends to be more decentralized and often share hard-to-decipher content laced with irony and sarcasm, the company officials added. Such a targeted investigation in March removed the Northwest Front, a white supremacist group that advocates for a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest.
Facebook's move Tuesday doesn't ban boogaloo content altogether. The company said it sought to ban a wide-ranging boogaloo network that is nonetheless "distinct from the broader and loosely-affiliated boogaloo movement because it actively seeks to commit violence."
The social-media giant expects many of the boogaloo users to move their discussions to other companies' platforms but is limiting its help to other companies, said a Facebook official familial the operation. The official didn't elaborate on why the company isn't sharing its intelligence.
Facebook also won't share that information with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a private-public consortium designed to prevent extremists from exploiting tech platforms, because it focuses on individuals and groups designated on the United Nations' consolidated sanctions list. The consortium shares information among members and aids smaller tech companies with fewer security resources to police their platforms.
Content moderation is often more difficult with far-right or white supremacist groups, which governments in the U.S. and Europe don't always legally designate as terrorist organizations, said Nicholas Rasmussen, executive director of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.
Facebook has put more than 250 white supremacist groups on its dangerous organizations list, company officials said, putting them alongside jihadist organizations such as al Qaeda.
In recent months, Facebook took steps to remove boogaloo-related content as the movement gained public attention. The company removed the account of an Air Force sergeant who allegedly killed two officers in California and who authorities said had boogaloo ties. The company removed 800 posts that called for violence in the past two months and also removed boogaloo-linked pages and groups from Facebook's recommendations.
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