Facebook bans boogaloo groups, but some smaller groups remain

After pressure, Facebook designates one boogaloo network a "dangerous organization" and removes hundreds of accounts.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
4 min read

A patch on a bulletproof vest recovered by the FBI during an investigation of a murder allegedly committed by a boogaloo member. The patch features an igloo and a Hawaiian-style print, both popular boogaloo symbols ("big igloo" and "big luau" sound like "boogaloo").

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Facebook  is changing its stance on the boogaloo movement. The social media company said Tuesday that it's banning a network associated with the far-right extremist movement, labeling it a "dangerous organization." Previously, Facebook opted to leave many such groups alone.

The company said it took down a core set of 220 Facebook accounts, 95 accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram, 28 pages and 106 groups affiliated with the boogaloo movement. It also removed an additional 400 groups and 100 Pages that contained similar content but were maintained by accounts outside the core boogaloo network.

"In order to make Facebook as inhospitable to this violent US-based anti-government network as possible, we conducted a strategic network disruption of their presence," Facebook wrote in a blog post. "This is the latest step in our commitment to ban people who proclaim a violent mission from using our platform."

Facebook says it doesn't allow violence and incitement, hate speech, racism, harassment, white nationalist or white separatist content on its site, and that it will remove any posts or comments that violate those policies. But a lot still gets past Facebook's censors, including an alleged murder that was planned by boogaloo members on its platform and countless groups dedicated to spreading racist memes and misinformation

Over the past week, Facebook has come under increasing pressure to better police and fully remove such content. A group of civil rights organizations launched an ad boycott against the company, called Stop Hate for Profit. The social network makes nearly all its money from ads, last year bringing in more than $70 billion in ad revenue. Over 100 brands have joined the boycott, including major ones like Clorox, UnileverVerizon, Adidas, Ford, Denny's, Volkswagen, Microsoft, the North Face, Patagonia, Chobani and more.

The boycott comes after the FBI said two boogaloo members conspired in a Facebook group to murder federal security guards in Oakland, California. The attack was allegedly coordinated to take place during protests over police violence on May 29. One guard was killed and another seriously injured.

The loosely knit boogaloo movement is strongly opposed to law enforcement. The name comes from the 1984 cult film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo and is used ironically to refer to a second Civil War. Some members stay staunchly focused on anti-government activities and rhetoric, while others slide into white supremacist or neo-Nazi ideologies. Several boogaloo members have taken their activities offline over the past couple of months and have been arrested for various crimes, including building pipe bombs and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

After the killing in Oakland, Facebook said it would still allow boogaloo groups to remain active on its platform. It said it stopped recommending boogaloo groups through its sidebar algorithm earlier this month and has been removing content that depicts armed violence. Over the past two months, Facebook said it removed over 800 posts from members of the larger boogaloo movement for violating its violence and incitement policy. It said the network it went after on Tuesday also habitually violated that policy.

"This network appears to be based across various locations in the US, and the people within it engage with one another on our platform," Facebook wrote in its blog post Tuesday. "It is actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement and government officials and institutions."

Though Facebook has now banned more than 100 boogaloo groups from its site, some offshoot groups are still active. J.J. MacNab of George Washington University's Program on Extremism, who researches anti-government extremist organizations, said on Twitter that she found several "igloo" groups still on the site. Igloo is a reference to boogaloo.

"'Big Igloo Bois: you wanted a group so screw it here ya go' is gone. It was a private group with roughly 34,000+ members," MacNab tweeted on Tuesday. "Smaller igloo groups are still in place."

Such groups include "Igloo of the big luau," "Western states igloo association" and "Captain Ping's big igloo cruise." MacNab noted some of these accounts were making backup plans. Members anticipated being shut down, so they privately announced alternative pages members could join.

MacNab didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook implied that removing all boogaloo accounts, pages and groups related to this network would likely be a game of whack-a-mole. The company said it will work to spot attempts by members to return to the platform and will study new language and symbols that those boogaloo members may use to cloak their affiliation. 

"We expect to see adversarial behavior from this network including people trying to return to using our platform and adopting new terminology," Facebook wrote in its blog post. "So long as violent movements operate in the physical world, they will seek to exploit digital platforms."