Facebook announced Tuesday that it is removing groups dedicated to the Boogaloo extremist movement one month after federal officials alleged the anti-government network’s adherents used the platform to plan the murder of a federal agent.
The social media giant said it removed 220 Boogaloo Facebook groups and 95 Instagram accounts that violated its policies against organized violence. It said 400 additional groups that were tangentially associated with the movement would be taken down, too.
“Today we are designating a violent U.S.-based anti-government network as a dangerous organization and banning it from our apps. This network uses the term boogaloo but is distinct from the broader and loosely-affiliated boogaloo movement because it actively seeks to commit violence,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in a statement.
In May, federal officials alleged that Steven Carrillo killed a federal security officer during protests in Oakland, California, against the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Carrillo allegedly plotted the attack with a man he met in a Boogaloo Facebook group and aimed to use protesters to “support our own cause” of a second Civil War.
The Boogaloo is a heavily armed, mostly conservative libertarian militia movement with extreme anti-government views that advocates for a violent uprising targeting mostly law enforcement. The movement, which has strong ties to current and former military members, grew to tens of thousands of followers since January, mostly in Facebook groups.
Several self-professed “boogaloo boys” have been arrested in recent months, charged with crimes including the murder of law enforcement officers and planning terror attacks at Black Lives Matter protests.
Carrillo was apprehended a week later shortly after killing a Santa Cruz County deputy in an ambush and scrawling the word “boog” in his own blood across the hood of a car.
Carrillo’s arrest was one of several Boogaloo-related arrests nationwide over the last two months. In Las Vegas, three men were charged with state and federal crimes of conspiracy to cause destruction and possession of explosives during protests planned for May.
Facebook’s announcement comes amid several crises at the company. A growing chorus of Facebook employees have spoken out against company policies surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the lack of policy enforcement for politicians. And a growing advertising boycott now includes Unilever, Verizon, Ford, Starbucks and nearly 250 other advertisers.
Facebook has reacted to the mounting pressure with new policies that include labeling political speech that violates the company’s content rules and cracking down on “hateful content.”
The removed Facebook groups are likely to splinter and regroup in smaller spaces such as Parler and Telegram, a process that often disrupts growth and sheds members, according to Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina, who tracks online extremism and was monitoring private Boogaloo groups online.
“It’s a classic response to network disruption,” she said. “First, they’ll attempt to go to backup pages and accounts made beforehand, if they have them. They’ll also go to known alternate platforms, and in some cases may attempt to reconstruct the network on entirely new platforms.”
The move by Facebook is significant and was made more quickly than previous actions against white nationalist groups, Squire said.
“But this ban won’t be complete or perfect,” she said. “They’ll miss things and they’ll likely apply their standards unevenly. So we have to keep watching. This isn’t over.”
Facebook said it worked with extremism researchers to determine its new policy.
“These acts of real-world violence and our investigations into them are what led us to identify and designate this distinct network,” the Facebook spokesperson wrote in the statement.