Members of the ‘Boogaloo’ movement, attend a demonstration against the coronavirus lockdown in Concord, New Hampshire [File: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]
Facebook on Tuesday announced that it had banned a violent anti-government network loosely associated with the broader “Boogaloo” movement, a slang term supporters use to refer to a second US civil war or a collapse of civilisation.
But the platform did not try to name the group, underscoring the difficulty of grappling with an amorphous network linked to a string of domestic terror plots that appears to obfuscate its existence. Among other complications, its internet-savvy members tend to keep their distance from one another, frequently change their symbols and catchphrases and mask their intentions with sarcasm.
The move by Facebook designates the group as a dangerous organisation similar to the ISIL (ISIS) group and white supremacists, both of which are already banned from its service. The social network is not banning all references to “Boogaloo” and said it is only removing groups, accounts and pages when they have a “clear connection to violence or a credible threat to public safety”.
The loose movement is named after “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a 1984 sequel to a movie about breakdancing. “Boogaloo” supporters have shown up at protests against COVID-19 lockdown orders, carrying rifles and wearing tactical gear over Hawaiian shirts – themselves a reference to “big luau,” a homophone for “Boogaloo” sometimes favoured by group members.
To be sure, the boogaloo movement does defy easy left/right categorization. @ADL describes it as having pro-gun, “anti-government and vehemently anti-police” and “white supremacist” ideologies. See https://t.co/JFHeFHQtbF and https://t.co/wtQvEHqKi2 2/
— Phillip Carter (@Carter_PE) June 21, 2020
Facebook said the movement dates back to 2012 and that it has been tracking it closely since last year.
Earlier in June, Steven Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant with ties to the “Boogaloo” movement, fatally shot a federal security officer and wounded his partner outside a US courthouse, ambushed and killed a California sheriff’s deputy and injured four other officers in Oakland, California.
According to the criminal complaint, Carrillo posted in a Facebook group, “It’s on our coast now, this needs to be nationwide. It’s a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois. Keep that energy going.”
The statement was followed by two fire emojis and a link to a YouTube video showing a large crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol vehicles. According to the FBI, “soup bois” may be a term that followers of the “Boogaloo” movement used to refer to federal law enforcement agents.
While the “Boogaloo” term has been embraced by white supremacist and other far-right groups, many supporters insist they are not racist or truly advocating for violence.
As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Facebook said it had removed 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages and 106 groups that comprise the “Boogaloo”-affiliated network. It also took down 400 other groups and 100 pages that hosted similar content as the violent network but were maintained by accounts outside of it.
The company said it has, so far, found no evidence of foreign actors amplifying “Boogaloo”-related material.