I had seen mentions of this story and thought it may have been a but over blown, but on looking at it in more detail it looks more bizarre and more concerning than I had thought. RNZ: Facebook pulls Trump re-election ad featuring ‘Nazi’ symbolism Facebook has removed ads from Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign […]Trump campaign ads with Nazi symbols — Your NZ
White nationalist group posing as antifa called for violence on Twitter
Some of the posts feature a screenshot of a tweet by a fake antifa Twitter account that Twitter said was created by the white nationalist group Identity Evropa.
By Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny and Emmanuelle Saliba
A Twitter account claiming to belong to a national “antifa” organization and pushing violent rhetoric related to ongoing protests has been linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, according to a Twitter spokesperson.
The spokesperson said the account violated the company’s platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts. Twitter suspended the account after a tweet that incited violence.
As protests were taking place in multiple states across the U.S. Sunday night, the newly created account, @ANTIFA_US, tweeted, “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” with a brown raised fist emoji and “Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”
This isn’t the first time Twitter has taken action against fake accounts engaged in hateful conduct linked to Identity Evropa, according to the spokesperson.
The antifa movement — a network of loosely organized radical groups who use direct action to fight the far-right and fascism — has been targeted by President Donald Trump as the force behind some of the violence and property destruction seen at some protests, though little evidence has been provided for such claims.
Other misinformation and misleading claims spread across Twitter on Sunday night and into Monday related to the protests.
Two hashtags that trended worldwide on Twitter falsely claimed that there was a “cover-up” or a “blackout” of protests in Washington, D.C., overnight. Both appeared to insinuate that protesters have been silenced in some way, perhaps by a secret internet blackout.
Twitter says it has removed the trend from its “trending topics” section because of “coordinated attempts to disrupt the public conversation” around the protests.
Twitter said it suspended several hundred accounts and is investigating the viral spread of the hashtag, which it said was boosted by “hundreds of spammy accounts.”
“We’re taking action proactively on any coordinated attempts to disrupt the public conversation around this issue,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the company sometimes pulls down hashtags that violate the company’s rules, like platform manipulation.
“We want trends to promote healthy discussions on Twitter. This means that at times, we may prevent certain content from trending. These include trends that violate the Twitter Rules,” the Twitter spokesperson said.
NetBlocks, a nonprofit group monitoring worldwide internet access, found no indication of a mass-scale internet disruption in the Washington area overnight or in the last 48 hours.
Journalists covering the protests also took to Twitter to disprove the hoax.
“A lot of people are asking me about a possible #dcblackout. I’ve been out near the White House since 4 am and haven’t experienced any outage,” tweeted Victoria Sanchez, a reporter for WJLA, the local ABC affiliate, adding that her colleagues had posted multiple updates throughout the night.
Many accounts tweeting the message had few to no followers. The same messages were also posted on Reddit and 4chan late Sunday. The posts pushing the #DCBlackout hashtag peaked in popularity around 12:30 a.m. ET Monday.
A second narrative boosted by bots and hacked accounts claimed that #DCBlackout is a misinformation campaign. The same message was tweeted verbatim by multiple accounts.
“Yeah…… as someone seeing #dcblackout trending, who lives and works in the DC metro area, and who has friends telecommuting into DC rn….. This hashtag looks like misinformation,” read the tweet, which was posted hundreds of times.
Some accounts had few to no followers, while other tweets were posted by users who claim to have been hacked.
One verified Twitter user, Jason Elia, said his account was hacked to tweet the message. Elia lives in Oklahoma City and said he wouldn’t go to Washington “unless they build an In-N-Out there.” He said he has since changed his password
The goal of the hashtag seems to be to sow confusion and fear during a chaotic time and to push the #DCBlackout hashtag to the front page of Twitter, where all users would at least glance at the disinformation.
Josh Russell, an independent bot researcher who identifies foreign and domestic hacking and trolling operations, said events like the weekend’s protests are ripe for this kind of platform manipulation.
“Any large ‘online’ event is going to have these types of things happen. Every bad actor that sees the opportunity to create some panic is going to leverage the situation to do so. It’s nothing new,” Russell said.
Off Twitter, viral text messages of screenshots of doctored tweets have circulated throughout the country. Some of the false text messages claim that extremist groups are plotting to move into residential areas this week.
Bot researchers call this kind of disinformation distribution “hidden viral” text messages, which go undetected on mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter and can spread like wildfire without moderation.
Similar “hidden viral” text messages went viral at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with messages claiming that the institution of martial law was imminent, vaguely citing friends or co-workers.
American officials later claimed that the texts were boosted by Chinese disinformation agents to spread panic.
Russell said hostile foreign governments frequently “look at opportunities to make it seem as though there is an infrastructure failure” during times of crisis.
“This is a common thing for foreign disinformation agents,” Russell said. “They would be trying to get people to believe that things are much worse on the ground than they are.”
Hey Mark Zuckerberg you fucking Kike KristoKunt Kracker….you sure do love the spreading of pathological lies, hate and death by Reich-Wing Trumpturd shitstains on the underwear of humanity along with the King Shitstain, Donald J Trump, on your racist, misogynist, ChristoTaliban platform called Fascistbook.
Here are two examples of proof.
From the blog postings reports on how Fascistbook and the Kike KristoKunt Kracker Mark Zuckerberg allows racist, pig fucking, generational inbred, shitstains on the underwear of humanity Reich-Wing ChristoTaliban Trumpturd groups on Fascistbook that call for the bogaloo and other racist Civil War shit? We reported two of them. The ones we reported were The Nationalist Times and the Litmer Corporation. Both are exposed in those reports as Reich-Wing Nazi and White Supremacist promoting groups of shitstains. So let’s see what Fascistbook and the Kike KristoKunt Kracker Mark Zuckerberg decided if they violated shall we?
The Nationalist Times has been exposed as a Reich Wing Nazi White Supremacist Hate Group that has been given a business profile on Fascistbook.
You anonymously reported The Nationalist Times for displaying hate speech
Your report Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 6:49 PM You anonymously reported The Nationalist Times for displaying hate speech.
Thanks for your feedback Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 7:51 PM
Thanks for your report – you did the right thing by letting us know about this. The Page you reported was reviewed, and though it doesn’t go against one of our specific Community Standards, we understand that the Page or something shared on it may still be offensive to you and others. No one should have to see posts they consider hateful on Facebook, so we want to help you avoid things like this in the future.If you want us to review something specific on this or another Page, you can report that exact content (example: photo) instead of the entire Page.From the list above, you can also block The Nationalist Times directly, or you may be able to unfollow the Page. If you unfollow it, you’ll be able to find the Page on Facebook but you won’t see its posts in your News Feed.
The Litmer Corporation posted racist ads on Fascistbook.
You anonymously reported the Litmer Corp for displaying a hate speech ad
You did the right thing by letting us know about this. While this ad is being reviewed, it will continue to be seen on Facebook. If upon review we find the ad goes against our Ad Policies, then we will take it down.Since you reported this ad, we won’t show you this in the future and will take your feedback into account when it comes to future ads you see.Please continue to report ads that you think don’t belong on our platforms and are misleading, offensive or inappropriate.Click here to review and manage your ad preferences. Learn more about giving feedback on ads.
Here again, are two proven, Reich Wing ChristoTaliban terrorist scumbags, who promote real hate, real violence and real death on Fascistbook, one of them? A fucking business site, which means Fascistbook and the Kike KristoKunt Kraker Mark Zuckerberg and Fascistbook? Are collecting money to promote the business site they created themselves, The Nationalist Times and are making money off the hate filled, bigoted ads by the Litmer Corp. Proving that the Kike KristoKunt Kraker Mark Zuckerberg and Fascistbook not only promotes this hate, terror and death on Fascistbook, but makes money off of it.
So what should we do to scumbag shitstain, generational inbred, Kike KristoKunt Krackers like Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Fascistbook, who makes money off of promoting hate, violence, death, bigotry, racism, misogyny on his platform by scumbag shitstain racist pig fucking Nazis and Fascists and Trumpturds?
You do to him what you do to any fucking rabid fucking animal, you hunt him down and you fucking give that fucking Kike KristoKunt Kracker exactly what he puts forth. You shoot this fucking Trumpturd Kike KristoKunt Kracker right between his fucking useless eyes is what you do.
If this Kike KristoKunt Kracker Mark Zuckerberg wants to promote violence, hate, bigotry, misogyny and death by Reich-Wing KristoKunt Krackers like himself? Then he, along with all the rest of the Reich-Wing KristoKunt Krackers should be fucking hunted down and fucking executed on the spot. Whether they are in bed fucking their sisters, or in the barn fucking their sheep and goats? They should be hunted down and fucking executed.
We should be waiting for these KristoKunt Kracker KKK scumbags to gather around their fucking racist burning crosses and lob fucking napalm on them and watch these KristoKunt Krackers light up like a dried out xmas tree.
These KristoKunt Krackers who walk around loaded with their small dick substitutes? Should be fucking shot on the fucking spot.
This is the thing, it is long past time for us to do unto these KristoKunt Kracker Fascist Pig Fuckers for Trump as they been doing to us for far too long. One of these fucking KristoKunt Krackers for Trump gets into your face? Pull out a fucking gun and blow their fucking faces off. This is how you fucking deal with fucking racist, pig fucking, KristoKunt Kracker Nazis and Fascists. You do not play games with these KristoKunt Krackers, you do not bow down and let them get away with their shit, you fucking walk up to these KristoKunt Krackers and you fucking put them down like the fucking rabid dogs they are. You give them no fucking mercy, you give them no compassion, you just give them a full frontal lobotomy.
Mark Zuckerberg, KristoKunt Kracker CEO of Fascistbook, all these Reich-Wing KristoKunt Kracker KKK, White Supremacist Trumpturds? All should be hunted down and fucking executed for committing High Treason Against the United States and for being fucking Nazi KristoKunt Krackers.
To Protect And Slur American cops have openly engaged in Islamophobia on Facebook, with no penalties Part Three
By Will Carless and Michael Corey
“WELL, LOOK WHO THE DEMS HAVE AS A DEPUTY CHAIR!”
The message by Richard Crites, a sheriff’s deputy in Missouri, starts off like so many political posts on Facebook. Then there’s the kicker:
“A RAGHEAD MUSLIM.”
In New Jersey, prison guard Joseph Bonadio posted repeated insults about the Prophet Muhammad and shared memes of roasting pigs with the message “Happy Ramadan.” In Georgia, retired cop Claude Stevens Jr. railed against Muslims for months, posting conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes.
They are among dozens of current and former American law enforcement officers whom Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting identified as members of Facebook groups dedicated to Islamophobia. With names such as “Veterans Against islamic Filth,” “PURGE WORLDWIDE (The Cure for the Islamic disease in your country)” and “Americans Against Mosques,” these groups serve as private forums to share bigoted messages about Muslims, and they have proven attractive for cops.
Reveal’s yearlong investigation found police officers across the country belonging to a wide spectrum of extremist groups on Facebook, such as Confederate groups filled with racist memes and conspiracies and groups run by the anti-government militias Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Islamophobic behavior was notably brazen. While officers shared slur-filled jokes about African Americans, Latinos and the LGBTQ community behind the walls of closed groups, anti-Muslim comments often were posted on public pages for all to see.
“The problem with law enforcement officials engaging in this type of behavior is that it’s probably influencing the way in which they police in their communities,” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at the civil rights group Muslim Advocates. “If they hold these biases towards Muslims, we’re very deeply concerned about the ways in which that manifests itself when it comes to being a first responder or being somebody who is investigating crimes against Muslims.”
The findings come as hate crimes against American Muslims continue at historically high levels. Muslim places of worship across the country have been set on fire and had their windows broken. Islamophobes have left slabs of bacon and scrawled graffiti on the doorsteps of mosques. Muslims have been shot, stabbed and had their religious garments ripped off. They’ve been shouted at, kicked, threatened and spit on.
Islamic centers and places of worship across the country also have boosted security since the horrific attacks against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, often asking local cops to stand guard during services.
Muslim Americans long have been the targets of discriminatory policing, most notably in New York City in the years after the 9/11 attacks. In 2018, the New York Police Department settled the last of three major lawsuits in which it was accused of spying on the local Muslim community for more than a decade, infiltrating mosques and creating a team of informants with the help of the CIA.
We notified nearly 150 departments about their officers’ behavior on Facebook and membership in extremist groups. Some departments launched immediate investigations, and one detective in Houston was fired for posting racist memes about African Americans, in violation of department policy.
However, other departments were unbothered by their officers’ social media activity. Some police leaders were angry that we even asked them about it.
Not a single department has said it disciplined an officer for Islamophobic posts or membership in an anti-Islam group.
‘This group is for those who wish to speak out about the evils of Islam’
We were able to identify cops in these groups by writing software to scour Facebook for connections between users who belonged to both extremist and law enforcement groups on the platform, then verifying the identities and professions of active-duty and retired officers. (Read more about our methodology here.)
Through that search, we found people such as Crites, a sworn member of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri.
In addition to his 2018 “raghead Muslim” comment, which he used to introduce a news story about then-Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, Crites was a member of three different extremist Facebook groups, including one called “STOP OBAMA AND CRONIES : RADICAL LEFTIES, ISLAMISTS, MEDIA LIES,” which we joined. Inside the group, which was full of Islamophobic content, we saw Crites posting several times, including writing, “Stop Obama stop the Muslims.”
Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay said Crites is a volunteer deputy but carries a gun and has arrest powers. Asked about Crites’ activity on Facebook, DeLay said he’s never heard any concerns from the community about his deputy’s work.
“I’m looking at disciplinary records now, and there aren’t any complaints,” he said.
DeLay wouldn’t provide us with those records, and Crites didn’t respond to numerous calls for comment.
Joseph Bonadio is a senior corrections officer for the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He also was a member of a group called “Infidel Brotherhood Worldwide.”
Islamophobic groups often use the word “infidel” as a dog whistle to attract people with similar views on Islam. Facebook is full of “infidel” groups, including “Any islamist insults infidels, I will put him under my feet,” “The Infidel Den – Anti Islam Coalition” and “Infidel Elite – Against Islam, by the Pen and/or Sword,” all of which count law enforcement officers as members.
Inside these groups, members often traffic in disproven theories that Muslims are invading the United States and plan to impose Sharia law and that this “Muslimification” already has happened across much of Europe.
Often, though, members just express their disgust with a religion practiced by about a quarter of the world’s population.
“The rabies that is islam being passed down from deluded parent to deluded and brainwashed child,” reads a typical civilian comment in “Infidel Brotherhood Worldwide.”
Bonadio, who works at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a prison in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, hasn’t actually posted in the group. Instead, he posted openly anti-Muslim content on his public Facebook wall:
1. “Known fact Jesus is better then (sic) goat FUCKER Muhammad,” he posted in 2015.
2. “I love the smell of bacon on Ramadan … Smells like America,” reads a meme he posted in May, at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
3. “Happy Ramadan,” he posted the same day, captioning a photo of a pig being roasted over a barbecue.
In addition to posting anti-Muslim content, Bonadio poked fun at the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people. He also has posted memes more than once that depict former first lady Michelle Obama as a man and questioned whether white Americans should be blamed for bringing slavery to the country.
After we sent screenshots of Bonadio’s Facebook activity to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, a spokesperson sent the following statement: “We are aware of the allegations referenced. These allegations will be investigated and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, if warranted.”
Bonadio did not respond to a call for comment.
Many working police officers were careful to hide their identities on Facebook, using pseudonyms, not listing their place of work or sometimes claiming to work in nonexistent jobs. An officer in Chicago, for example, listed his job as “Bent Over at City of Chicago.” Several cops used variations of their real names, such as Texas State Trooper Kevin Lashlee, who called himself “KD Lash” on Facebook and posted in a group containing racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content.
But retired law enforcement officers were far more brazen.
Claude Stevens Jr., who retired from the Waynesboro Police Department in Georgia in 2015, since has joined at least six closed anti-Muslim groups, including “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER” and another named “Rage against the veil.”
Stevens’ personal Facebook page was awash with anti-Islamic memes, and he’s actively commented in at least two of the closed groups. For example, he wrote under a video of Islamic immigrants in Germany, “The Prophet Muhammad eat’s (sic) dog shit and is a follower of Satan/Allah” in March 2017.
When reached for comment, Stevens initially was defensive of his views. He called Islam “evil” and said America needs to be extremely wary of Muslim immigrants, who he claims seek to impose Sharia law in a Christian nation. However, he claimed that as a police officer, he always treated people fairly, no matter what their religion.
Asked how he could treat all people equally while at the same time posting about how Muslims are “filthy” and “animals,” he paused and said: “I would have to concede to you that I probably have to back off on my words and look at it differently.”
As a transit officer with the New York Police Department, John Intranuovo policed a city that’s home to more than 600,000 Muslims. Now that he’s retired, he has used a group called “Stop the War on Christianity and White America” to rail against Muslims.
Intranuovo had a simple reaction to a post about former President Barack Obama endorsing Amir Malik of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who was seeking election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2018. “No muslims,” he wrote. In another comment, Intranuovo called Muslims “evil people.”
Intranuovo also was a member of two more anti-Muslim Facebook groups: “The Infidel Den – Anti Islam Coalition” and “THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN INFIDELS,“ neither of which allowed us to join, but both of which contained openly anti-Islam sentiment in their public descriptions.
“This group is for those who wish to speak out about the evils of Islam. All members of this group want Islam removed from America,” reads the public description for “THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN INFIDELS,” which can be viewed by anybody on Facebook.
‘These are law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect us’
Earlier this year, Facebook announced a big push against hate speech.
As part of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to turn around the social media behemoth, Facebook first promised to ban white nationalist and white supremacist content, then followed up by ousting several prominent purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric, including Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer. But anyone hoping these moves would mark an end to widespread hate speech on the platform was disappointed.
Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina who tracks hate groups on Facebook, frequently reports such groups and content to moderators. She said the social media platform acts only on reports of hateful speech, rather than proactively searching for content that violates policy. And even when groups and content are reported, Squire said, Facebook traditionally has been more accepting of “politicized hate” against Islam – that is, groups claiming to protest not Islam itself, but “radical Islam” or “creeping Sharia law.” Inside these groups, we found, slurs and hateful comments most often were directed at all Muslims in a blanket fashion.
“This horrifies me,” said Qasim Rashid, an attorney and author of several books on the Muslim experience in the United States. “These are law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect us. If a guy is in a group on Facebook called ‘Death to Islam’ or ‘Purge Islam as a disease,’ and they’re patrolling our neighborhoods and streets, then who are they really protecting?”
He said tropes linking Islam with terrorism or suggesting that Muslims plan to “take over” countries are unfair and misguided from the start.
“Terrorism has no religion. We’ve seen plenty of examples of so-called Christians who have committed mass shootings,” Rashid said. “If I started a page about ‘radical Christianity’ and started demonizing every Christian out there as a suspected ‘radical Christianist,’ I would be rightfully mocked and ridiculed and called a bigot.”
In a year of studying extremist groups on Facebook, we noticed how groups have adapted to content moderation practices on the platform. Openly racist groups such as those connected to the Ku Klux Klan don’t last very long on the site. The racist groups that survive have adopted the coded language typical of the alt-right movement or disguised themselves as Confederate history groups.
By contrast, Islamophobic groups are transparent in their intentions and even in their names. While in recent months Facebook has removed groups tied to white nationalist organizations such as the Proud Boys – like the group “Proud Boys Southern Chapter” – the social network continues to host groups that are openly hostile to Muslims, such as “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.” Every day, users post hateful content in these groups, often pledging violence against American Muslims.
Facebook denies treating anti-Muslim hate, in whatever guise, differently from other forms of hate speech.
“Our policies against extremist content/organized hate groups are longstanding. Our Community Standards are clear that we don’t allow hate groups to maintain a presence on Facebook,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.
Ahussain said Muslim Advocates is just one of many advocacy groups pushing Facebook and other social media companies to take hate speech more seriously.
“Facebook provides a platform and a space where people feel like they can say these things,” she said.
That’s particularly true when it comes to hate speech directed against Muslims, Squire said. Islamophobia on Facebook can be a gateway to other forms of intolerance, she said.
The majority of U.S. hate crimes motivated by religious bias are anti-Semitic, and Reveal’s investigation found plenty of anti-Semitic activity in private groups. But the public nature of the Islamophobic activity on the platform resonates with Squire’s observation from years of monitoring Facebook: that anti-Muslim hate speech is “the last accepted form of bigotry in America.”
Researchers Daneel Knoetze and Michael Dailey contributed to this story. It was edited by Andrew Donohue and Matt Thompson.
To Protect And Slur The American militia movement, a breeding ground for hate, is pulling in cops on Facebook Part Two
By Will Carless and Michael Corey
In the years since he founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, Stewart Rhodes has made a bold claim: Within the ranks of his sprawling anti-government militia are thousands of retired and active law enforcement officers.
Rhodes’ organization embraces wild conspiracy theories. Like the Three Percenters and other militia groups, the Oath Keepers refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government. Instead, many inside the movement claim that local sheriffs and police chiefs are the highest-ranking officials in America and that the Constitution is the only legitimate law governing the United States. It is part of a broader militia movement that has proven to be a breeding ground for racism and domestic terrorism.
It’s been difficult to figure out whether Rhodes’ claims were real or simply bluster, because of the secretive nature of the movement and because cops tend to keep their militia affiliations quiet, fearing disciplinary action.
However, over the last year, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting identified almost 150 current and retired cops who were members of Facebook groups run by and for Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and other militias. These law enforcement officers are a subset of a larger contingent of cops we identified as members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or other extremist groups on Facebook.
We were able to identify cops in these groups by writing software to scour Facebook for connections between users who belonged to both extremist and law enforcement groups on the platform, then verifying the identities and professions of active-duty and retired officers. (Read more about our methodology here.)
Our analysis includes some of the most extensive evidence yet that militias are drawing support – and membership – from within American law enforcement. These connections place a number of American cops on a collision course with the federal government.
Daryl Johnson, a security consultant who spent six years as the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, said the presence of militia members in police and sheriff departments should concern every chief and sheriff in the country.
“At a bare minimum, just think about operational security or counterintelligence or insider threats,” Johnson said. “Most of these militia members have sworn an oath to a body that’s separate to their department. If they’re called on to investigate or arrest a fellow member of that militia group, or if they have insider information about police tactics or equipment or training, then where do their loyalties lie?”
‘When the Collapse comes they will call them all out to kill Americans’
The Oath Keepers and Three Percenters both say they’re the last line of defense against a new world order seeking to enslave everyday Americans. They promote the conspiracy theory that the federal government is controlled by a mysterious elitist cabal, which plans to take away Americans’ guns, overthrow local governments and install martial law over citizens, including setting up concentration camps to kill dissenters.
Militia groups want cops to join because they have guns, experience and training that will prove invaluable when, as their ideology contends, America’s next civil war begins.
Threaded into this worldview is the idea that military personnel and law enforcement officers represent the final word on the Constitution. Members of the Oath Keepers pledge to follow the group’s orders and bylaws over those of their own agencies or politicians.
The extent to which some cops have embraced the conspiracy theories pushed by militia leaders is on display inside the closed Facebook groups we joined.
For example, Greg McWhirter, a sheriff’s deputy at the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office in Montana and a member of at least 15 militia-connected Facebook groups, posted a video of Rhodes in the Facebook group “Idaho Oath Keepers” earlier this year. The clip touts a conspiracy theory that the left is trying to flood America with immigrants who will vote for Democrats and upset the balance of power.
McWhirter also has appeared in one of Rhodes’ official Oath Keepers videos, giving fellow militia members advice on how to patrol voting stations after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump warned, without evidence, that the 2016 election would be rigged. Without revealing where McWhirter works, Rhodes introduced him as a member of the group’s national board of directors and a “peace officer liaison.”
“What this is, is a video tutorial from our experienced police officers,” Rhodes says in the video. “We’re asking you to go out as part of our call to action to go and hunt down and look for vote fraud.”
In the closed Facebook group “Central New York Oathkeepers,” under a story about the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordering submachine guns, former New York Police Department Sgt. John Mahoney asked a reasonable question:
“Why? Why would the Department of Agriculture require Sub-Machine Guns? Whom are they planning to shoot???”
Another former NYPD cop and group member, Pearse Columb, had an answer:
“They are arming ALL these depts because when the Collapse comes they will call them all out to kill Americans that have no food and the money is worthless.”
Reached by phone, Mahoney said he still is involved with the Oath Keepers, which he described as an honorable group. He said he doesn’t agree with the actions of all Oath Keepers, but said the organization’s principles are sound.
Columb didn’t respond to several calls for comment.
Valerie Van Brocklin, a former federal prosecutor who trains police departments and other public employees on social media use, said many police officers mistakenly believe that they can say whatever they want in their spare time.
“Most cops think that if they’re off-duty and using their own computer, then they have their First Amendment rights,” Van Brocklin said.
But it’s not as simple as that, she said. Police departments have codes of conduct and ethics, and many have developed specific social media policies that employees must abide by, even when they’re not working. It’s all part of the long-standing concept of “conduct unbecoming a police officer,” she said.
‘They hate Muslims and they hate immigrants and they hate the government’
The American militia movement’s rise has been fed by white supremacy, conspiracy theories and bigotry.
The first wave of modern militias was sparked by the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge in Idaho, during which federal agents surrounded a rural family’s home after charging the family patriarch, Randy Weaver, with weapons violations. Weaver was a white supremacist who attended meetings of the Aryan Nations – facts that were somewhat lost in the ensuing shootout, in which Weaver’s son and wife were killed by federal agents. Weaver became an overnight cause célèbre for conspiracy theorists who, convinced that Ruby Ridge marked a watershed moment for American liberty, started preparing for a coming civil war.
Militia growth sped up in the aftermath of the botched federal siege at the Branch Davidian religious sect compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, then slowed after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, carried out by an anti-government terrorist steeped in the militia movement.
Recent years have seen more heated standoffs between militia groups and federal law enforcement, and militia groups have been widening their targets beyond the federal government and toward immigrants and Muslim Americans.
In 2008, with the election of Barack Obama as president, militia groups began actively recruiting again, spurred on by the racist “birther” movement, which questioned Obama’s nationality and thus his legitimacy as president. Both the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers were founded out of the fear that he was about to start taking away Americans’ guns. The two groups now are the largest and most well-known organizations in a crowded field of militia groups that vary from clubs of just a few people to thousands-strong collectives.
The Three Percenters, founded by an Alabama gun rights activist, is a loosely affiliated organization with no linear leadership. Named for the highly contested theory that only 3 percent of Americans took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War – most historians believe the number was significantly higher – the group concentrates on Second Amendment issues.
The core principle of the Oath Keepers is that members take an oath to defend the Constitution above all else. The group describes its aims in theoretically reasonable terms, noting on its website that enlisted military personnel are obligated to refuse any order that “is not constitutional or according to regulations” and listing a “declaration of orders we will not obey,” which includes orders to disarm American citizens, impose martial law or set up concentration camps in U.S. cities.
However, in practice, the group’s actions have proved problematic, giving militia members justification to take the law into their own hands, often at gunpoint and often in conflict with law enforcement agencies assigned to keep Americans safe.
In April, the militia group United Constitutional Patriots began detaining hundreds of border-crossers at gunpoint before handing them over to U.S. Border Patrol agents. The group had received a visit from Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder, a month before. After news spread of the group’s actions, the FBI arrested its leader and the local police department kicked the militia out of its campsite.
In 2014, the Oath Keepers and other militia groups flocked to Nevada to aid a family, the Bundys, which had for years grazed its cattle on federally managed land without paying legally mandated fees. Despite years of legal wrangling and courts’ repeated rejection of the Bundys’ claim of a constitutional right to graze cattle on the land for free, militia members took the position that they, not the courts or the federal government, were the final word on the claim.
In Oregon two years later, militia members – including Oath Keepers – gathered again to protect two ranchers who had been found guilty of arson for setting fires on federal land and had been ordered to report to prison to serve their sentences. Again, the justification militia members gave for rallying to the ranchers’ aid already had been rejected numerous times by the courts. In the end, a lawyer for the ranchers wrote to the local sheriff saying that the militia members did not represent his clients’ views and that they didn’t want their help.
Beyond these high-profile clashes with local, state and federal governments, militia members also have taken to supporting racist and violent causes.
These groups have become highly visible at rallies organized by white supremacist groups, most notably the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. And since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, anti-government militias have spawned domestic terrorists. In the last 15 months alone, militia members have been convicted of planning at least two violent acts of terrorism against Muslim Americans.
In April 2018, three members of a militia group connected to the Three Percenters were convicted of conspiring to bomb a Somali community in Kansas. Their lawyers argued in court that they worried President Barack Obama was on the verge of declaring martial law after the election of Donald Trump and that militias needed to step in to kill Muslims, whom they described as “cockroaches.”
In January, two members of a group called the “White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia” pleaded guilty to the 2017 bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota. (A third member, the group’s alleged ringleader, pleaded not guilty and faces trial.) Again, the group was heavily influenced by conspiracy theories. Days before he was arrested, the group’s leader posted a video claiming that the federal government was descending on Clarence, Illinois, and calling on militia groups to rally to his defense.
Law enforcement agencies themselves have expressed concern over the militia movement. In 2014, three-quarters of the nearly 400 law enforcement agencies surveyed by North Carolina researchers said anti-government extremism was “one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction.”
Lane Crothers, a political science professor at Illinois State University and the author of a book on the militia movement, said that unlike neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups, militia members typically don’t acknowledge that their views are extremist. They don’t see themselves as bad guys, he said.
“The militias have this kind of notion of an idealized America,” Crothers said. “This notion is a racialized one and a gendered one, but somehow or another, they believe that it’s reflecting some kind of constitutional spirit. So from their point of view, they’re actually patriots.”
Crothers, who has spent hundreds of hours alongside law enforcement officers researching another book, said the very nature of police work can make officers susceptible to conspiracy theories. Cops are being lied to constantly, he said, both by the civilians they have to deal with every day and often by the departments for which they work. In the end, he said, it can become hard to separate fact from fiction.
“You live in a world where the PR people have just put out some statement about an incident that you were at, and you know that every word in the PR statement is false,” Crothers said. “It gets very easy to accept the deceptions and to imagine the power of conspiracies.”
Johnson, the former domestic terrorism analyst, was starker in his analysis of militia groups.
“These are hate groups,” he said. “They pretend they’re not, and they’ve learned to portray themselves as innocent neighborhood watch-type groups, but they’re hate groups. They hate Muslims and they hate immigrants and they hate the government. And police officers have been entrusted to protect and serve our communities, so they should be open-minded and unbiased.”
‘He will squish you like the little bug that you are!’
Inside one Facebook group we briefly joined before being banned, we identified 17 current and former law enforcement officers, including retired cops from Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois and Texas and cops and sheriffs who are still on-duty in New York, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky.
The group, “XII% Dirty Dozen National,” is an offshoot of the Three Percenters. It was founded by Diane Zauderer Miller, whom members call “the General.” Here’s how she describes the group’s name: “We all know of 3% patriot organizations, however I believe that *more* than 3% of patriotic Americans are willing to stand our ground against threats both foreign & domestic – more like a DOZEN PERCENT – that’s 12% or in Roman numerals: XII%.”
The group, which has more than 14,000 members on Facebook, serves as a place where budding militia members can organize and discuss real-life meetups and the formation of new militia chapters.
Zauderer Miller regularly appoints quasi-military titles to members around the country, such as “Commander of Oklahoma” and “1st Sergeant of the Oklahoma Battalion.” Reached briefly by direct message on Facebook, Zauderer Miller, like other militia leaders, denied her group is a militia, calling it a “humanitarian group.” But the group’s own website calls it a “civil defense force.”
“We train our people/squads to be able to provide Security and Protection to themselves and others who need it within our jurisdiction,” the site reads.
Like several other similar Facebook groups we joined, this group serves as a gathering place for conspiracy theorists and Islamophobes.
A typical civilian post, for example, warned readers of an Islamic takeover of the United States ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, because more than 90 Muslims were running for political office across the country.
“Wake up people don’t let this happen,” one commenter wrote.
“Need to go back to their own shit hole,” another commented.
More recent posts and comments have taken aim at Somali American Rep. Ilhan Omar. In April, one poster encouraged someone to put a “bullet in her head,” using several slurs to describe her.
At least two active-duty and four retired law enforcement officers commented inside this group.
Arthur Terwilliger, a detective at the Cornwall-on-Hudson Police Department in New York, has been a member of Dirty Dozen since November 2015. In that time, he has commented a few times, including writing “Yes” under a meme featuring a photo of Trump saying, “I will halt the entry of all Muslim immigrants until we can figure out what the hell is going on. Are you with me? Comment ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”
In another comment, under a post about an undocumented immigrant allegedly threatening the president, Terwilliger wrote, “He will squish you like the little bug that you are!”
Reached by phone, Terwilliger called Reveal’s reporting “bogus.”
“I love my country, and I think Donald Trump is the best thing to ever happen to America,” he said when asked about his activity in the Dirty Dozen group.
Inside other Facebook groups we joined, police officers searched for militia groups for real-life training and meetings.
When Todd Johnston, an officer at the Rocky Top Police Department in Tennessee, posted a message introducing himself to a group called “Militia Wanted Tennessee,” a fellow member immediately asked if he was looking for a militia group to join.
“Sure thing, my friend,” Johnston replied.
The member responded that Johnston could join a local Three Percenter group, then suggested they continue their discussion via direct message.
Johnston did not respond to phone and Facebook messages seeking comment. Rocky Top Police Chief Jim Shetterly didn’t respond to our letter or several phone messages.
In Massachusetts, John Rocca, a program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs Police, discussed the dates and location of a forthcoming meeting with a fellow group member inside “Oath Keepers of Massachusetts” in 2015.
In the same group, Charles Ricko, who retired from the Charlemont Police Department in Massachusetts last year, helped to organize meetings and offered moral support to fellow militia members. After another member posted about having organized a successful meeting, Ricko responded enthusiastically, “sign them all up!”
In Missouri, Patrick Burton, chief of the Licking Police Department, was a member of the Facebook group “Missouri Oath Keepers” for at least three years.
And in Boundary County, Idaho, Deputy Dave Schuman posted so frequently inside the group “Oath Keepers of Boundary County” that he appeared to be using the group to advertise his political campaign. He was running for sheriff.
Burton and Schuman did not respond to calls for comment. Rocca and Ricko both said that while they had been briefly interested in the Oath Keepers, they soured on the organization as it became more radical. Both said that they had not been involved with the Oath Keepers for several years and that they disagreed with the group’s current direction.
“I signed up at their tent at a motorbike rally, but that’s as far as I ever got,” Rocca said. “I never attended any meetings or anything like that.”
‘Call the FBI, call the terrorist watch list, call whoever you want’
In late 2018 and earlier this year, Reveal sent dozens of letters to departments whose officers were members of groups connected to the militia movement.
We detailed each officer’s activity on Facebook – whether the officer simply was a passive member or was actively participating or posting inside the extremist groups. The responses we received from department heads ran the gamut. Some expressed genuine concern and launched internal investigations. Others didn’t respond. Some chiefs and sheriffs were furious that we would even question the motives and activities of their employees.
“Call the FBI, call the terrorist watch list, call whoever you want,” Chief Steven Dixon of the Cornwall-on-Hudson Police Department screamed at a reporter in a phone call when we told him about Terwilliger’s activity in the Three Percenters group. Dixon then hung up.
Until recently, Officer Eric Salmestrelli of the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon was a member of at least two extremist groups on Facebook – one devoted to the Oath Keepers and one Islamophobic group.
Inside the Oath Keepers group, Salmestrelli had posted several times, including posting a meme asking, “Is Barack Obama a Saudi-Muslim ‘Plant’ in the White House?”
Under an article posted by another member about Obama-era policies, Salmestrelli wrote, “Fuck him. And his progressive jihadi agenda.”
The Portland Police Bureau recently came under scrutiny after it was revealed that officers there had a cozy relationship with the group Patriot Prayer, which regularly holds rallies and events in Portland and elsewhere that attract white nationalists and white supremacists. Shortly after we contacted the bureau, Salmestrelli’s profile disappeared from Facebook.
In late March, the bureau’s acting Internal Affairs Lt. Amanda McMillan said the department had decided to take no action against Salmestrelli. His posts, she wrote, had taken place prior to Salmestrelli joining the department.
“Ultimately, it was determined that, as the posts in question all occurred prior to the member’s employment with PPB, no jurisdiction existed,” the letter states.
Salmestrelli couldn’t be reached for comment.
At a recent congressional committee hearing on the rise of domestic terrorism in the United States, Michael McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director for counterterrorism, joined high-ranking officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department in stressing that well-armed militias like those police officers have joined across the country pose a significant threat.
“There have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years,” McGarrity said at the hearing. “Domestic terrorism continues to pose a persistent threat to the homeland. We currently have 850 predicated domestic terrorism investigations.”
Asked later about that figure, McGarrity said approximately half of those are open investigations into “anti-government, anti-authority” groups.
Researchers Daneel Knoetze and Michael Dailey contributed to this story. It was edited by Andrew Donohue and Matt Thompson.
To Protect and Slur:
Inside hate groups on Facebook, police officers trade racist memes, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia Part One
By Will Carless and Michael Corey
Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook, a Reveal investigation has found.
These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as “White Lives Matter” and “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.”
The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside. Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
More than 50 departments launched internal investigations after being presented with our findings, in some cases saying they would examine officers’ past conduct to see if their online activity mirrored their policing in real life. And some departments have taken action, with at least one officer being fired for violating department policies.
U.S. law enforcement agencies, many of which have deeply troubled histories of discrimination, have long been accused of connections between officers and extremist groups. At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marchers flew a “Blue Lives Matter” flag alongside anti-Semitic and white supremacist messages. In Portland, Oregon, police officers were found to have been texting with a far-right group that regularly hosts white supremacists and white nationalists at its rallies. A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept, warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups had infiltrated American law enforcement.
It can be difficult to determine how deep or widespread these connections run. Researchers recently found numerous examples of police officers posting violent and racist content on their public Facebook pages. Reveal’s investigation shows for the first time that officers in agencies across the country have actively joined private hate groups, participating in the spread of extremism on Facebook.
Most of the hateful Facebook groups these cops frequent are closed, meaning only members are allowed to see content posted by other members. Reveal joined dozens of these groups and verified the identities of almost 400 current and retired law enforcement officials who are members.
One guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana, Geoffery Crosby, was a member of 56 extremist groups, including 45 Confederate groups and one called “BAN THE NAACP.”
A detective at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, James “J.T.” Thomas, was a member of the closed Facebook group “The White Privilege Club.”
The group contains hundreds of hateful, racist and anti-Semitic posts; links to interviews with white supremacists such as Richard Spencer; and invites to events such as the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Users regularly post memes featuring Pepe the Frog, the alt-right mascot, with captions such as, “white people, do something.” And there are explicitly racist jokes, such as one with a photo of fried chicken and grape soda with the caption, “Mom packed me a niggable for school.”
Thomas once posted the logo for the Black College Football Hall of Fame inside the group with a simple caption: “Seriously. Why?” Soon after, he posted a meme about an elderly African American woman confusedly responding to a reporter’s question by naming a fried chicken restaurant.
After being presented with Thomas’ postings on Facebook, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office fired him in February for violating a number of employee conduct policies.
“These policies state that ‘an employee’s actions must never bring the HCSO into disrepute, nor should conduct be detrimental to the HCSO’s efficient operation. … Personnel who, through their use of social media, cause undue embarrassment or damage the reputation of, or erode the public’s confidence in, the HCSO shall be deemed to have violated this policy and shall be subject to counseling and/or discipline,” the department said in an email.
In a hearing to appeal his firing, Thomas said he didn’t realize he was a member of the closed group and defended his behavior. “If you remove the black female out of the picture, what’s racist about it?” he said. The Harris County Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission upheld his firing.
Lonnie Allen Brown of the Kingsville Police Department in Texas, a member of three Islamophobic groups, posted a photo of a young black man with a pistol to his head with the header, “If Black lives really mattered …. They’d stop shooting each other!” He also posted an image that read: “Islam. A cult of oppression, rape, pedophilia and murder cannot be reasoned with!” Neither he nor his department returned calls for comment.
Peter Simi, an associate professor of sociology at Chapman University who has studied extremist groups for more than 20 years, said biased views like those expressed in these Facebook groups inevitably influence an individual’s decision-making process.
“The perceptions we have about the world at large drive the decisions we make,” Simi said. “To think that people could completely separate these extremist right-wing views from their actions just isn’t consistent with what we know about the decision-making process.”
While Facebook vows that it prioritizes meaningful content, its algorithms also appear to play a role in strengthening biases. The more extreme groups we joined, the more Facebook suggested new – and often even more troubling – groups to join or pages to like. It was easy to see how users, including police officers, could be increasingly radicalized by what they saw on their news feed.
What’s harder to see is how these views affected their policing offline.
Amid The Pandemic, U.S. Militia Groups Plot ‘The Boogaloo,’ AKA Civil War, On Facebook
Extremists are promoting anti-government violence on Facebook during the coronavirus pandemic. The social media giant appears to be doing little about it.
By Christopher Mathais
Thousands of armed right-wing militants are plotting a violent uprising against the U.S. government during the coronavirus crisis, a new report finds, and Facebook is providing them a platform to prepare and organize.
A report published Thursday by the watchdog group the Tech Transparency Project found 125 Facebook groups devoted to the idea of the “boogaloo,” a far-right term used to describe what they believe is an inevitable civil war in the U.S. Members discuss weapons, combat medicine, and how to develop explosives, the report says. One group even shared a document detailing how to disrupt U.S. government supply lines and discussing the possible need to assassinate government officials.
These groups have proliferated during the pandemic, according to the report, as right-wing extremists grow more agitated over lockdown orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, measures many militia and “patriot” groups view as the oppressive maneuverings of a tyrannical government.
Over 60% of the groups were created in just the last three months, according to the report. The 125 groups have nearly 73,000 members, though it’s unclear how many individuals may belong to multiple groups.
About 50% of the groups’ members have joined within the last 30 days.
The groups have flourished despite Facebook community guidelines that prohibit facilitating, organizing or promoting “harmful activities targeted at people.” The guidelines also ban “statements of intent to commit high-severity violence.”
Daniel E. Stevens, executive director of Campaign for Accountability, the umbrella organization under which TTP operates, told HuffPost in a statement Thursday that “Facebook’s failure to stop their platform from being used as an organizing tool for extremists is completely unacceptable.”
“There is nothing subtle about how these extremist groups are using Facebook’s platform to advance their cause,” Stevens said. “Boogaloo proponents are not simply discussing ideas or political views; they are directly advocating for violent action and tactically planning how to defeat government entities.”
In a statement to HuffPost Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson claimed the company is aware of the boogaloo groups.
“We’ve removed groups and Pages who’ve used this and related terms for violating our policies,” the spokesperson said.
None of the handful of boogaloo groups specifically named in TTP’s report summary had been taken down as of Friday morning.
“We’re reviewing the content referenced in this report and will enforce against any violations,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
The potential for real-world violence by these groups came into focus earlier this week, when an Arkansas boogaloo enthusiast named Aaron Swenson live-streamed himself on Facebook driving around Texarkana, Texas, allegedly looking for a police officer to shoot and kill.
Comments left on the livestream showed some users endorsing attacking police officers. Other users suggested people call 911. Swenson was eventually arrested, according to the local police department.
A review of his Facebook page by TTP found that he “liked” over a dozen boogaloo pages, including a prominent boogaloo page called the Thicc Boog Line.
After HuffPost’s inquiry Thursday, Facebook appears to have removed Swenson’s profile page.
Facebook studies and monitors new terms, including boogaloo, which extremists may use to mask their activities, the Facebook spokesperson insisted, adding that the company has 350 people on staff devoted to stopping people and organizations from using its platform to plot or engage in violence.
The pandemic is proving to be a fraught period for the social media giant, as it struggles to slow the spread of misinformation about the virus that could put people in danger.
Many such protests, however, have still been organized on the platform, resulting in crowds of right-wingers not observing social distancing guidelines descending upon government buildings, demanding that lawmakers reopen local and state economies despite the desperate warnings of public health experts.
TTP also infiltrated private boogaloo groups on Facebook where pages promoting anti-lockdown events were shared and attendance was encouraged, including a page for an April 24 protest in Wisconsin.
Heavily armed militiamen, some of whom have carried boogaloo signs or worn boogaloo patches, have appeared at previous anti-lockdown rallies.
“This is not a case of extremists outsmarting Facebook,” Stevens, of the Campaign for Accountability, told HuffPost in his statement. “By allowing these pages to exist, Facebook is demonstrating a clear unwillingness to protect the public from possible domestic terrorists. Unless Facebook takes substantive action to break up these dangerous online communities, there is a very real risk of violence spilling out into the streets.”
The boogaloo groups are part of a larger anti-government extremist movement in the U.S., which includes militia and “patriot” organizations such as the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters, whose adherents have been implicated in bombings, murders and armed standoffs with federal law enforcement.
There is sometimes overlap between anti-government and white supremacist movements. TTP’s analysis of the boogaloo groups found that some members’ profiles include white supremacist content, including images of Adolf Hitler. Many other group members, however, claimed to reject white supremacist ideology.
TTP says it identified the 125 groups in its report by searching for different variations or abbreviations of “boogaloo,” such as “boog,” “big igloo,” “Big Luau,” and “boojihadeen.”
One group, “BoojieBastards: Intelligence and Surveillance,” has averaged 100 new members a day since its creation in February, and now boasts some 6,500 followers.
The largest group, the Thicc Boog Line, has gained about 30,000 followers since its creation in October 2019. Its main page is public and is often used to hawk boogaloo-branded clothing and accessories. The Thicc Boog Line also operates 11 private boogaloo groups that more explicitly discuss preparing for the coming civil war.
About 89% of the groups identified in TTP’s report, or 112, are set to private. Many take their war preparations so seriously that members are banned from posting memes, so as the discussion stays focused on intelligence sharing.
“The groups engage in national-level coordination or act as state and local chapters where users share tactical information and survival tips, ranging from topographic map access to instructions for evading authorities,” the report states.
Perhaps most concerning are the planning documents members upload to the boogaloo groups which, according to TTP, include military manuals, a CIA handbook, and “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a famous bomb building guide.
Another alarming, 133-page document entitled “Yeetalonians” spells out what weapons should be used for the boogaloo and instructs members how to develop propaganda to win over others to their cause.
The document discusses how “national guard depots, police stations and factories that produce munitions are all very solid targets” for disrupting the U.S. government supply chain.
It emphasizes to members that it’s deeply important “to make the enemy (government forces) see that they are not fighting terrorists, they are fighting their own countrymen who simply love liberty.”
The “Yeetalonian” document also mentions “target selection,” arguing that while assassinations of public officials and figureheads are often “overrated” as a military strategy, “some people have to go.”
Report: Over 100 Militant Hate Groups Have Been Promoting Second Civil War on Facebook
By Whitney Kimball
God help us if Mark Zuckerberg’s next congressional hearing is on the subject of the Bloody Insurrection of 2020. As HuffPost first reported, a scourge of far-right extremist accounts on Facebook appear to be gearing up for a meme-inspired civil war amid the covid-19 outbreak.
The Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a research group focused on exposing large platforms’ misconduct and influence, released a report finding that 125 Facebook groups are promoting the “boogaloo,” a term far-right groups use to refer to a wishful Civil War sequel. The boogaloo appears to have mutated from a joking 4chan meme into a real-life movement of militiamen (“Boojihadeens”) late last year. But the TTP found a surge in boogaloo interest over the past few months, correlating with social distancing measures. According to the report, over 60 percent of the Facebook groups cropped up in the past three months and, as a whole, have attracted over 36,000 members in the last 30 days.
In a statement to Gizmodo Friday night, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company has “removed groups and Pages who’ve used this and related terms for violating our policies.” “We’re reviewing the content referenced in this report and will enforce against any violations,” they added. On Monday morning, dozens of boogaloo-themed pages, including ones mentioned in the TTP report, were still accessible on the platform.
Boogaloo promoters have been attending anti-quarantine protests, events with ties to pro-gun activists. The report says that the Boojahideen have been hearing dog whistles from the president lately, greeting his “LIBERATE” tweets with cheers. “TTP found that some members of private boogaloo Facebook groups reacted to the president’s rhetoric with memes of celebration,” it reads, “and traded details of anti-quarantine protests in Richmond, Virginia, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.”
In total, these Facebook groups boast 72,686 members, although the report did not verify how many members overlap between groups. One merch page, the Thicc Boog Line, admins at least 11 other boogaloo groups.
The vast majority are private, TTP notes. One post screenshot grabbed by TTP crowdsources tips on homemade explosives. It begins:
Let’s talk grenades, flash bangs, and other things you can throw at the enemy. Let’s just say that you didn’t want to get the paperwork in order to possess certain things that go boom or can act as a room clearer/stunner.
Is there anything you can buy to make your own flash bangs?
The report suggests this isn’t just casual dabbling in violent fantasies. The groups have uploaded CIA handbooks, military manuals, and the bomb assembly manual “The Anarchist Cookbook.” One 133-page-plus planning document reviewed by the TTP reportedly identifies strongholds like “national guard depots, police stations, and factories that produce munitions” as “very solid targets” and proposes taking out rail lines and ports to “sabotage shipments.” The TTP found that one Arkansas fan of several boogaloo pages was arrested earlier this month after allegedly livestreaming a hunt to kill a police officer on Facebook Live.
Boogaloo advocates reportedly include Matt Marshall, a leader of the militia group Three Percenters, named for the disputed belief that only three percent of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Marshall suggested that followers wear the Hawaiian shirt, the mark of the Boojahideen, to anti-quarantine protests.
Slides included in the report also outline a propaganda strategy proposing that boogaloo insurgents stick to Revolutionary War-related emblems such as the Gadsden flag, rather than anarchism emblems, which the media will portray as “black and scary.”
YouTube is also culpable. As of this writing, “Top 5 Boogaloo Guns”—a guide to firearms posted on April 15th by a user with 2.35 million subscribers—remains live with over 300,000 views. “The idea being that a boogaloo is something really bad happens, it’s a tyrannical government,” the narrator, in a Hawaiian shirt, explains, “and you’ve gotta take to the streets and take care of business, protect your family, protect your neighborhood, protect your citizens.” He proceeds to review a semi-automatic version of an FN SCAR assault rifle (which, he remarks, has been a popular item at recent unnamed rallies).
YouTube told Gizmodo that “we have strict policies regarding content featuring firearms, and quickly remove content that violates those policies when flagged by our users,” but added that the boogaloo video doesn’t violate their firearms content guidelines.
Facebook was made aware of the boogaloo activity in February, the report notes, after NBC reached out to the company and received the following response:
We’ve been studying trends around this and related terms on Facebook and Instagram. We don’t allow speech used to incite hate or violence, and will remove any content that violates our policies. We’ll continue to monitor this across our platform.
Updated: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook and YouTube.
Correction: 4/17/20, 8:50 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a semi-automatic weapon as an “automatic assault rifle.” It has been corrected above and we regret the error.
Facebook says hate groups aren’t allowed on the platform. But white supremacists are using the social network to build their movement.
Dozens of white supremacist groups are operating freely on Facebook, allowing them to spread their message and recruit new members, according to a Tech Transparency Project (TTP) investigation, which found the activity is continuing despite years of promises by the social network that it bans hate organizations.
TTP recently documented how online extremists, including many with white supremacist views, are using Facebook to plan for a militant uprising dubbed the “boogaloo,” as they stoke fears that coronavirus lockdowns are a sign of rising government repression.1 But TTP’s latest investigation reveals Facebook’s broader problems with white supremacist groups, which are using the social network’s unmatched reach to build their movement.
The findings, more than two years after Facebook hosted an event page for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, cast doubt on the company’s claims that it’s effectively monitoring and dealing with hate groups.
What’s more, Facebook’s algorithms create an echo chamber that reinforces the views of white supremacists and helps them connect with each other.
With millions of people now quarantining at home and vulnerable to ideologies that seek to exploit people’s fears and resentments about Covid-19, Facebook’s failure to remove white supremacist groups could give these organizations fertile new ground to attract followers.
Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit hate speech based on race, ethnicity, and other factors because it “creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” The company also bans hate organizations.3 Since the Charlottesville violence, Facebook has announced the removal of specific hate groups and tightened restrictions on white extremist content on the platform.
“We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in April 2018. “So, if — if there’s a group that — their primary purpose or — or a large part of what they do is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform, overall.”
The analysis found:
• Of the 221 designated white supremacist organizations, more than half—51%, or 113 groups—had a presence on Facebook.
• Those organizations are associated with a total of 153 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups. Roughly one third of the organizations (34) had two or more Pages or Groups on Facebook. Some had Pages that have been active on the platform for a decade.
• Many of the white supremacist Pages identified by TTP were created by Facebook itself. Facebook auto-generated them as business pages when someone listed a white supremacist or neo-Nazi organization as their employer.
• Facebook’s “Related Pages” feature often directed users visiting white supremacist Pages to other extremist or far-right content, raising concerns that the platform is contributing to radicalization.
• One of Facebook’s strategies for combatting extremism—redirecting users who search for terms associated with white supremacy or hate groups to the Page for “Life After Hate,” an organization that promotes tolerance—only worked in 6% (14) of the 221 searches for white supremacist organizations.
• In addition to the hate groups designated by SPLC and ADL, TTP found white supremacist organizations that Facebook had explicitly banned in the past. One known as “Right Wing Death Squad” had at least three Pages on Facebook, all created prior to Facebook’s ban.
Facebook is Creating Pages for Hate Groups
TTP examined the Facebook presence of 221 hate groups affiliated with white supremacy. The groups were identified via the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Hate Symbols Database and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) 2019 Hate Map, an annual census of hate groups operating in the U.S.5
TTP used ADL’s glossary of white supremacist terms and movements to identify relevant groups in the Hate Symbols Database. With the SPLC Hate Map, TTP used the 2019 map categories of Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, neo-völkisch, racist skinhead, and white nationalist to identify relevant groups.6 Of the 221 groups identified by TTP, 21 were listed in both the ADL and SPLC databases.
TTP found that 51% (113) of the organizations examined had a presence on Facebook in the form of Pages or Groups. Of the 113 hate groups with a presence, 34 had two or more associated Pages on Facebook, resulting in a total of 153 individual Pages and four individual Groups.
Roughly 36% (52 Facebook Pages and four Facebook Groups) of the content identified was created by users. One user-generated Page for a group designated as white nationalist by SPLC had more than 42,000 “likes” on Facebook and has been active since 2010.7
The remaining 64% of the white supremacist content identified by TTP involved Pages that had been auto-generated by Facebook. These Pages are automatically created by Facebook when a user lists a job in their profile that does not have an existing Page. When a user lists their work position as “Universal Aryan Brotherhood Movement,” for instance, Facebook generates a business page for that group.
This auto-generation problem has existed for some time.In April 2019, an anonymous whistleblower filed a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) petition regarding extremism on the platform and Facebook’s practice of auto-generating business pages for terrorist and white supremacist groups. Some of these Facebook-generated Pages gained thousands of “likes,” giving a way for the groups to identify potential recruits, according to the whistleblower.
One of the auto-generated hate group Pages with the most “likes” in TTP’s analysis was for the Council of Conservative Citizens, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group. The group made headlines in 2015 after an online manifesto linked to white supremacist Dylann Roof referenced the organization; Roof opened fire at a historically black church in South Carolina, killing nine people. Facebook’s auto-generated Page for the Council of Conservative Citizens included a description of the group’s white supremacist affiliations, complete with a direct link to their website.
Facebook’s role creating Pages for organizations like these undermines claims by the company that it bars hate groups.
“Our rules have always been clear that white supremacists are not allowed on our platform under any circumstances,” said Neil Potts, Facebook public policy director
Related Pages: Facebook’s Extremist Echo Chamber
The TTP review highlights flaws in Facebook’s content moderation system, which relies heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and Facebook users to report problematic content to human moderators for review.
Relying on users to identify objectionable material doesn’t work well when the platform is designed to connect users with shared ideologies, experts have noted, since white supremacists are unlikely to object to racist content they see on Facebook. “A lot of Facebook’s moderation revolves around users flagging content. When you have this kind of vetting process, you don’t run the risk of getting thrown off Facebook,” according to SPLC research analyst Keegan Hankes.
Artificial intelligence, which Facebook has touted for years as the solution to identifying and removing bad content, also has limitations when it comes to hate speech.
AI can miss deliberate misspellings; manipulation of words to include numbers, symbols, and emojis; and missing spaces in sentences. Neo-Nazis, for example, have managed to avoid detection through simple measures like replacing “S” with “$.”
At the same time, Facebook’s algorithms can create an echo chamber of white supremacism through its “Related Pages” feature, which suggests similar Pages to keep users engaged on a certain topic.
TTP’s investigation found that among the 113 hate groups that had a Facebook presence, 77 of them had Pages that displayed Related Pages, often pointing people to other extremist or right-wing content. In some cases, the Related Pages directed users to additional SPLC- or ADL-designated hate groups.
For example, TTP found that the user-generated Page for Nazi Low Riders, an ADL-listed hate group, showed Related Pages for other groups associated with white supremacy. The top recommendation was another user-generated Page called “Aryanbrotherhood.” (By omitting the space between the two words, the Page may have been trying to evade Facebook’s AI systems, as discussed above.) The Aryan Brotherhood is “the oldest and most notorious racist prison gang in the United States,” according to ADL.
The Aryanbrotherhood Facebook Page in turn displayed Related Pages for more white supremacist ideologies, some of them making reference to “peckerwoods,” a term associated with racist prison and street gangs.
The Related Pages listed on the user-generated Page of American Freedom Union, an SPLC designated white nationalist group, included a link to a Page for the book “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.” The book was authored by Jared Taylor, who runs the website for American Renaissance, another SPLC-designated white nationalist group.
Facebook’s algorithms even pick up on links between organizations that may not be obvious to others. For example, the auto-generated Page for Sacto Skins, a short form of the SPLCdesignated racist hate group Sacto Skinheads, included a Related Page recommendation for Embassy of Russia in the United States. A recent investigation by The New York Times found that Russian intelligence services are using Facebook and other social media to try to incite white supremacists ahead of the 2020 election.
This web of white supremacist Pages surfaced by Facebook’s algorithms is not new. The nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, in a 2018 report about far-right groups on Facebook, identified multiple white supremacist and far-right Pages by following the Related Pages feature.
Banned Groups Persist
Facebook’s Community Standards have included rules against hate speech for years, but in the past three years the company has expanded its efforts.
One significant change came quietly in 2017, following mounting reports about white supremacist activity on Facebook. The company didn’t publicly announce a policy change, but the Internet Archive shows that in mid-July, it added “organized hate groups” to the “Dangerous Organizations” section of its Community Standards. The company did not, however, specify how it would define such hate groups.
Despite the policy update, Facebook didn’t immediately take down an event page for the “Unite the Right” rally, which SPLC had tied to neo-Nazis. According to one media report, Facebook only pulled the listing the day before the rally, in which one woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter-protestors in Charlottesville.
Amid the ensuing public outcry, Facebook announced removals of a number of hate groups including White Nationalists United and Right Wing Death Squad.
Facebook scrambled again in early 2019 following the Christchurch attack, in which a gunman used Facebook to stream the massacre of 51 people at a pair of mosques in New Zealand. As the killings made headlines around the world, the company said it would ban “white nationalist” content along with the previously banned category of white supremacism. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also said a handful of hate groups in Australia and New Zealand would be banned.
Two months after the New Zealand attack, however, BuzzFeed News found that extremist groups Facebook claimed to have banned were still on the platform. Later that year, The Guardian identified multiple white nationalist Pages on Facebook but said the company “declined to take action against any of the pages identified.” Online extremism expert Megan Squire told BuzzFeed, “Facebook likes to make a PR move and say that they’re doing something but they don’t always follow up on that.”
Research suggests there continues to be a gap between Facebook’s public relations responses and the company’s enforcement of its own policies. A recent report by TTP found that videos of the Christchurch attack continued to circulate on the platform a year later, despite Facebook’s vow to remove them.
Since 2017, Facebook announced removals of at least 14 white supremacist and white nationalist groups in the U.S. and Canada, according to media reports. (Only one of these groups, Vanguard America, is included in the TTP’s review of 221 white supremacist groups named by the SPLC and ADL.) Of the 14 groups, four continue to have an active presence on Facebook: Awakening Red Pill, Wolves of Odin, Right Wing Death Squad, and Physical Removal.
TTP identified three user-generated Pages for Right Wing Death Squad that are currently active on Facebook. All three Pages identified by TTP were created before the Unite the Right rally and were never removed by Facebook.
The Right Wing Death Squad Pages include extremist language as well as references to the “boogaloo,” the term used by extremists to reference a coming civil war. Some of the Right Wing Death Squad Pages brand themselves as anti-globalist, a term often considered a dog whistle for anti-Semitism.
In March 2020, Facebook announced the removal of a network of white supremacists linked to the Northwest Front, an SPLC-designated hate group that has been called “the worst racists” in America.42 Facebook’s director of counterterrorism Brian Fishman said the action came after the group, which had been banned for years, tried to “reestablish a presence” on the platform. TTP, however, found that the auto-generated Page for Northwest Front was not removed and that searches for the group’s name on Facebook still fail to trigger the company’s re-direct effort to Life After Hate.
Facebook also said it removed a network of accounts linked to VDARE, an SPLC-designated white nationalist group, and individuals associated with a similar website called The Unz Review, in April 2020.
Facebook said the group had engaged in “suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election,” and described VDARE’s anti-immigrant focus without mentioning its link to white nationalism. According to Facebook, the network spent a total of $114,000 on advertising through the platform.
As with the action against the Northwest Front, Facebook failed to remove the auto-generated VDARE Page. Clicking on the Page’s link to the VDARE website generates a notice that states, “The link you tried to visit goes against our Community Standards.” Still, it is unclear why Facebook allows the auto-generated Page to stay up when it acknowledges the group violates its Community Standards.
Failing to Direct Away from Hate
As part of Facebook’s expanded efforts to combat white supremacy on the platform following the Christchurch attack, the company said in March 2019 that it would re-direct users who search for terms related to hate.
“Searches for terms associated with white supremacy will surface a link to Life After Hate’s Page, where people can find support in the form of education, interventions, academic research and outreach,” the company announced.49
TTP found that not only did Facebook’s anti-hate link fail to surface in the majority of hate group searches, but in some cases, the platform directed users to other white supremacist Pages.
TTP conducted a search for each of the 221 hate groups associated with white supremacy and white nationalism listed by SPLC and ADL. Only 6% of the searches (14 groups) surfaced the link to Life After Hate.
One factor may be that not all of the hate groups listed by SPLC and ADL make their ideologies obvious in their names. But even organizations that have “Nazi” or “Ku Klux Klan” in their names escaped the redirect effort. Of 25 groups with “Ku Klux Klan” in their official name, only one triggered the link to anti-hate resources.
The redirect tool even failed to work on groups that Facebook has explicitly banned. TTP used Facebook’s search function to search the names of the 14 white supremacist groups in North America that Facebook said it had banned. The Proud Boys were the only one of the groups to trigger the platform’s Life After Hate link.
Facebook began removing accounts and pages linked to the far-right Proud Boys in October 2018 after members of the group clashed with anti-fascist protestors. Searches for the group today generate Facebook’s Life After Hate link, and TTP did not find any official Proud Boys Pages on the platform.
But the Facebook search for Proud Boys did bring up a Page for “Proud to be a White American,” which describes itself as being for “The promotion of white initiatives and white causes.” (Notably, the “Proud to be a White American” Page is listed above a Page called “Proud Boys” that does not appear to be affiliated with the far-right group.)