Facebook is Throwing a Fit About Anti-Lockdown Groups
After President Donald Trump called on Americans to “LIBERATE VIRGINIA” on Twitter last month, a number of Facebook groups have emerged in solidarity with Trump and against Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s draconian lock down policies.
According to a Bloomberg report, these “Facebook groups focused on violent anti-government uprisings.”
To get their message across, these groups are exploiting loopholes in Facebook anti-violence policies — using satire, code words and other tactics that mask their motives, according to experts who follow fringe groups on social media. One of the more common such phrases is “boogaloo,” which can refer to a kind of music but more recently has come to describe a pending civil war.
Because of this allegedly insurrectionist behavior that is being encouraged online, Facebook currently faces unique challenges.
Bloomberg highlighted one of these challenges:
Facebook’s efforts to fight everything from Covid-19 misinformation to animal trafficking have been made more difficult by the company’s push into more private, encrypted communication, which can make some illicit activity almost impossible to detect — a trade-off that Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he’s willing to accept. And though Facebook has delayed other content moderation to focus on pandemic-related material, Facebook groups have continued to promote fake cures and protests to reopen states that could violate social distancing mandates.
One movement that Facebook higher-ups are worrying about is the so-called “boogaloo” movement.
Facebook’s challenge has been highlighted by the lockdown protests — a fringe movement that the “boogaloo” and other far-right groups have leveraged as a recruiting tool, experts say. Between February and April, the number of boogaloo Facebook groups grew from about 75 to 125, according to an April report by the Tech Transparency Project. Membership doubled to 70,000 in a monthlong period ending in late April, according to the report.
“The platforms’ own practices and design create these loopholes that allow disinformation conspiracy theories and radicalizations to exist. What you’re seeing with boogaloo is an example of that,” stated Karen Kornbluh, senior fellow and director at the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund. “They are able to pretty clearly violate the terms of service through such simple, obvious strategies, which shows that there’s a lot of tightening up that can be done.”
On May 1, Facebook and Instagram updated their violence and incitement policy to ban the usage of booglaoo terms when they are used along with statements and images portraying armed violence, according to a spokeswoman.
Broadly speaking, Facebook is stepping up its removal of content “connected to organized hate” per a May 12 blog post. The social media company claimed that it removed 4.7 million pieces of said content from January through March. This represented a removal of 3 million more pieces of content than it conducted in the previous quarter.
Facebook is chasing ghosts.
Boogaloo is mostly used in jest among people in right-wing spaces. Yes, there is political discontent in America, but there’s no appetite for insurrection.
Facebook should watch out for actual incitements to violence, but they won’t find much of it that presents a credible threat among the boogaloo crowd.