Facebook cracks down on the 'Boogaloo Bois'

Jack Murphy
July 01, 2020 - 12:55 pm
A group of heavily armed men who identified themselves as the "People's Protection Group" arrive during a protest outside the police department on June 30, 2020 in Florissant, Missouri.

Getty: Michael Thomas / Stringer

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Facebook has begun cracking down on the so-called "Boogaloo Bois" whom it considers a dangerous anti-government network, according to a recent blog post the company made.

The social media giant, which also owns Instagram, launched what it called a strategic network disruption, "removing 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 pages and 106 groups that currently comprise the network."

Many military veterans have been attracted to the Boogaloo meme.

The social media company made some attempt to recognize the nuances of the Boogaloo Bois "movement" by acknowledging that it includes a diverse assortment of different activists, however it also thanked investigators, researchers and journalists who help the company, "identify the fault lines that help us focus on elements of the broad boogaloo movement that pose the greatest risk of real harm."

While the company was perhaps well-meaning, the reliance on fly-by-night experts responding to the 24-hour news cycle could also be problematic. Many of those so-called experts only took notice of the Boogaloo movement in recent weeks as they showed up at protests around the country wearing their distinct Aloha shirts, often under body armor while carrying AR-15 rifles.

Some of those who identify with the Boogaloo movement are indeed violent. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo was arrested for allegedly committing a string of murders of law enforcement officers and it is further alleged he wrote the word boogaloo in his own blood at the time of his arrest, although his political affiliations remain contentious. Army veteran Alex Booth live-streamed his 2019 standoff with police while making mention of the Boogaloo before he was apprehended. 

For others, the boogaloo is little more than a joke or a meme. The distinction between what is a joke and what is a genuine call to violence can be difficult to determine. "The Boogaloo Bois are not terrorists. The accelerationists in their community are. We would be foolish to conflate them," Jade Parker told Connecting Vets.

"The effect of the Boogaloo meme is the perpetuation of a myth, not the furtherance of a malignant ideology," Parker who is an associate fellow at Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET), said. "The myth is imminent civil war and the Boogaloo community is far from the only digital subculture to be furthering this myth right now. The old methods used against adversaries with ideological aspirations are counterproductive when applied to accelerationism."

Accelerationists are extremists who believe society will inevitably collapse and wish to speed up the process. Some are attracted to the Boogaloo meme, others to a diverse set of beliefs that may be neo-Nazi and white supremacist in nature. Most accelerationists have a core belief in anti-semitism. 

In regard to Facebook's attempted crackdown against the Boogaloo Bois Parker said, "social media censorship of marginal online communities is a major objective of accelerationist activities. They want the Silicon Valley companies to make it impossible for dissident political dialogue to occur online. In turn, individuals in those communities will see 'no political solution' to the current socio-cultural quagmires. A more significant number than before will transition from passive to active accelerationist behavior. The knee-jerk reactions by people who believe social media censorship is the answer to myth-motivated accelerationism will eventually result in the realization of the very phenomenon they’re trying to avoid."

Facebook's strategic disruption will likely only short circuit the Boogaloo Bois for a limited time, as they could soon migrate to other platforms, some of them encrypted systems that will make it harder for law enforcement to track. Deplatforming can be of limited utility in a world with such advanced telecommunications infrastructure. But what should be done?

"That’s the tricky part. Social media platforms are beholden to their shareholders," Parker said. "There is little chance that the court of public opinion will demand anything other than censorship each time there is negative publicity of fringe actors trending on their sites, especially with the widespread misinformation on the nature of the Boogaloo Bois and other recruitment pools for accelerationists. The prospect of improved decision-making on matters of online counterterrorism falls apart when any better solutions are eclipsed by whichever solutions are heard the loudest."

In regard to the core issues which fuel these ideological insurgencies, she says, "I haven’t seen any prominent scholar, activist or politician ask the simple questions of why do the non-accelerationists believe that a civil war is inevitable and what steps can we take to quell those anxieties."

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.