Illustration for article titled Facebook Purges Nearly 200 Accounts Linked to Hate Groups and Schemes to Infiltrate Protests
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Facebook has purged nearly 200 accounts on its social media platforms associated with white supremacy groups, some of which pushed members to grab their weapons and crash protests against police brutality, according to a weekend Associated Press report.

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You’d think any idiot would consider this a cut-and-dry case of racists violating Facebook’s terms of service, which prohibits users from inciting violence on its platforms (unless you’re the president, that is). But I’ve no doubt that some of the folks in Washington have already begun scheming over how to spin this into yet another example of the company’s supposed anti-conservative bias.

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On Friday, Facebook officials confirmed to the AP that it removed “approximately” 190 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to two notorious hate groups that have already been kicked off the platforms—the Proud Boys and the American Guard. According to the report, officials were already monitoring these accounts as a precursor to taking them down when they began making posts plotting how to infiltrate the ongoing protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, by white police officers last month.

“We saw that these groups were planning to rally supporters and members to physically go to the protests and in some cases were preparing to go with weapons,” Brian Fishman, Facebook’s director of counterterrorism and dangerous organizations policy, told the outlet.

Facebook didn’t give any additional details about the users’ locations or how they planned to disrupt demonstrations. This is the company’s second purge of racist accounts this week; on Tuesday, Facebook announced it had removed a “handful” of accounts linked to white supremacists who had been trying to stir up drama online by posing as members of the anti-fascist movement.

Though their allegations haven’t held up under scrutiny, President Donald Trump and other conservatives have been whining about concerns of Facebook’s anti-conservative bias for years, claiming that the social network and others like it disproportionately censor right-wing users and content. Overwhelmingly, social media companies say that the supposedly suppressed content and accounts that critics point to are flagged for violating the platform’s terms of use and rules about harassment and hate speech, and not due to any political stance.

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Recently, though, Facebook’s come under fire from both critics and its own employees after CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to remove Trump’s inflammatory post about the protests. Zuckerberg has since tried to hedge this controversial decision with a late-night Facebook post Friday that promised that, moving forward, Facebook plans to review its policies regarding the state use of force, voter suppression, and content moderation as well as discuss providing a middle-ground option for contentious posts similar to the content warning Twitter slapped on the president’s comments.

In his post, the Facebook CEO also explicitly outlined his support for ongoing protests. “To members of our Black community: I stand with you. Your lives matter. Black lives matter,” he wrote.

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Better late than never, I suppose. Though the sentiment is overshadowed by Facebook’s continued insistence on dragging its feet to address the festering extremism and misinformation fueled in part by its platforms’ algorithms.

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Yesterday, Facebook announced that it would stop actively promoting the “Boogaloo” movement, a meme-filled campaign based on the idea that Americans need to prepare for an evitable second Civil War that’s been championed by far-right militiamen among others.

Not ban, mind you. No, instead of booting supporters of a movement that’s gained momentum among white supremacists and been used as a rallying cry for a fantasized “race war”, Facebook promised that it would no longer prompt users of associated groups to join Boogaloo groups, wherein violent calls to action—particularly in regards to ongoing protests—are becoming a serious problem.

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But, hey, at least they did the bare minimum. So let’s hear a round of applause for white mediocrity!

Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.

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Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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