OAKLAND, CALIF. —
Facebook has banned an extremist anti-government network freely associated with the broader “boogaloo” movement, a slang that supporters use to refer to a second Civil War or a collapse of civilization.
But the platform did not attempt to name the group, underscoring the difficulty of dealing with an amorphous network linked to a series of domestic terror plots that seem to overshadow its existence. Among other complications, their experienced members on the internet tend to keep their distance from each other, often change their symbols and catchphrases, and mask their intentions with sarcasm.
Facebook’s move designates this group as a dangerous organization similar to the Islamic State group and white supremacists, both already banned from their service. The social network is not banning all references to “boogaloo” and said it is only removing groups, accounts and pages when they have a “clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public safety.”
The loose movement is named after “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo”, a 1984 sequel to a breakdancing film. “Boogaloo” supporters appeared in protests against COVID-19’s blocking orders, carrying rifles and wearing tactical equipment over Hawaiian shirts, a reference to “big luau,” a homophone for “boogaloo” sometimes favored by members of the group. Facebook said the move dates back to 2012 and has been closely following it since last year.
In early June, Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant linked to the Boogaloo movement, fatally shot a federal security officer and wounded his partner outside a U.S. courthouse, ambushed and killed a California sheriff and wounded four other officers in Oakland, California. According to the criminal complaint, Carrillo posted on a Facebook group: “It’s on our coast now, this needs to be national. It’s a great opportunity to target the special soup oxen. Keep that power running.”
The statement was followed by two fire emojis and a link to a YouTube video showing a large crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol vehicles. According to the FBI “soup oxen” may be a term that followers of the boogaloo movement used to refer to federal agents.
Although the term “boogaloo” has been embraced by white supremacist groups and other far-right extremists, many supporters insist that they are not racist or actually advocate violence.
Violent and extremist groups are increasingly turning to encrypted communication networks and marginal social platforms without content moderation to gather, making them harder to track.
As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Facebook said it removed 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 pages and 106 groups that make up the violent Boogaloo affiliated network. It also took down 400 other groups and 100 pages that hosted content similar to that of the violent network, but were kept by accounts outside it.
The company said it has so far found no evidence of foreign actors amplifying material related to “boogaloo.”
Social media companies are facing a reckoning over hate speech on their platforms. , Reddit, an online comment forum that is one of the world’s most popular websites, on Monday banned a forum that supported U.S. President Donald Trump as part of a crackdown on hate speech.
Live streaming site Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, also temporarily suspended Trump’s campaign account for violating its rules of hateful conduct. YouTube, in turn, banned several prominent white nationalist figures from its platform, including Stefan Molyneux, David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Civil rights groups have called on major advertisers to stop Facebook’s advertising campaigns during July, saying the social network is not doing enough to reduce racist and violent content on its platform and several major advertisers have signed up to the boycott.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman contributed to this story from Silver Spring, Md.