June 17, 2020 / 2:10 AM / 2 months ago

Facebook removes hundreds more accounts as right-wing violence spreads

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook on Tuesday removed almost 900 accounts associated with the far-right Proud Boys and American Guard, including those belonging to Proud Boys supporters who marched into a protest zone in Seattle Monday and confronted anti-racist demonstrators.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Facebook told Reuters the takedowns of more than 500 Facebook accounts and more than 300 Instagram accounts followed a smaller round of suspensions two weeks ago.

“We initially removed a set of accounts for both organizations on May 30 when we saw that both organizations started posting content tied to the ongoing protests,” said a Facebook spokeswoman who asked not to be identified. “We were continuing the work to map out the full network.”

Facebook had previously banned the groups for promoting hate, but individual members continued to post images with weapons and urge others to attend protests that followed the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Facebook is under heightened scrutiny as provocateurs use it to coordinate and recruit. It has also acted to make it harder to find groups in the so-called Boogaloo movement.

Boogaloo adherents believe a new civil war is looming and are often heavily armed. Some ally with right-wing militias and have sought to capitalize on the protests by instigating violence they hope will escalate into a broader conflict.

On Tuesday, two adherents were charged in connection with the murder of a security guard on duty at a federal building during a protest in Oakland.

According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, suspects Steven Carrillo and Robert Alvin Justus Jr. belonged to the same unidentified Facebook group and discussed attacking federal authorities on May 28.

“It’s a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois,” Carrillo posted, in a reference the FBI said was shorthand for three-letter agencies.

The guard was killed the following night. After a later carjacking, the FBI said, Carrillo wrote “Boog” in his own blood on the vehicle.

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Christopher Cushing

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