SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Friday said it disrupted efforts by banned white nationalist groups to organise members to arm themselves and target protests against racial injustice.
Small networks of accounts tied to the groups known as Proud Boys and the American Guard were taken down as part of a move by the social network after posts inciting violent action on the ground, according to Facebook dangerous organisations policy director Brian Fishman.
“We saw that these groups were planning to rally supporters and members to go on the ground to the protests, in some cases they were preparing to go with weapons,” Fishman said in a press briefing.
The two groups were previously banned at Facebook but were trying to slip back onto the social network and its Instagram service, according to Fishman.
Fishman’s team was working to identify all of the accounts related to the activity, but sped up take-down efforts when posts turned to calls for clashing with protesters.
About 80 Facebook accounts and 50 Instagram accounts linked to the American Guard were taken down, along with about 30 Facebook accounts and the same number of Instagram accounts tied to the Proud Boys.
“We try to detect efforts of banned organisations to return to the platform,” Fishman said,
“These groups do operate adversarially and will try to come back all at once.”
Facebook is looking at more such groups, he added, not specifying which.
Facebook has not seen any evidence of “foreign interests” being involved in coordinated behaviour targeting protests in the US, according to head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher.
The California-based social network last month banned the use of “Boogaloo” and related terms when used along with references or depictions of armed violence.
Facebook removes content violating that rule and prevents associated pages or groups from being recommended for viewing, according to a spokesperson.
The “Boogaloo” movement, which has adopted Hawaiian shirts as a uniform, promotes “a coming civil war and/or collapse of society”, according to a Nevada federal prosecutor involved in a criminal case against alleged members.
Three far-right extremists arrested by an anti-terror unit at Las Vegas protests over the killing of an African American man by police were charged this week with inciting violence, officials said.
The men allegedly belong to the “Boogaloo” movement, according to the federal prosecutor.
The US has been roiled by nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.
The demonstrations have been largely peaceful but many have broken down into violence and looting after nightfall.