Facebook is banning far-right militia The Proud Boys after a violent attack in New York

Home Tech Facebook is banning far-right militia The Proud Boys after a violent attack in New York

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  • Facebook is banning accounts and groups associated with The Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group linked to political violence in the US.
  • Earlier in October, five members of the Proud Boys were arrested after a violent incident with protesters in New York City. 
  • Groups with tens of thousands of members have been removed, and supporters of The Proud Boys are complaining on Twitter.
  • A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that the organisation violates its rules against hate groups.

Facebook is banning accounts and pages associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group whose members assaulted protesters in New York City earlier in October.

On Tuesday, Twitter users began reporting that Facebook was taking down groups and accounts (both public-facing and personal) linked to members of the organisation, which has been involved in instances of political violence in the US.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that the company is banning The Proud Boys and founder Gavin McInnes from both Facebook and Instagram, pointing to Facebook’s rules against hate groups.

The takedowns come after members of the Proud Boys allegedly attacked protesters following an event in New York on October 12. Members of the group reportedly shouted homophobic slurs as they beat and kicked protesters, and at least five Proud Boys have since been arrested.

The move by Facebook will deprive the extremist organisation of its primary channel for recruitment and publicity — but it only comes months after other tech firms took action against the group.

Proud Boys was founded by Gavin McInnes, also known as a cofounder of the media organization Vice, and describes its members as "Western Chauvinists." The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an extremism watchdog organisation, designates it as a hate group. One of the Proud Boys’ initiation rites involves physical violence against left-wing antifascists.

Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the 2017 "Unite the Right" white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a protester, was reportedly a member of the Proud Boys.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: "Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve. We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it.

"We will continue to review content, Pages, and people that violate our policies, take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe."

The SPLC has previously revealed how the organisation used Facebook as a recruitment tool, setting up private groups for "vetting" prospective members. "While Twitter has received significant criticism for verifying Proud Boys accounts, it’s Facebook that appears to provide the recruitment machinery for the group," it wrote.

As of writing, some major Proud Boys groups, including one with 20,000 members, are offline, with Facebook showing users a "This page isn’t available message" — while others, including the page of McInnes, are still available. 

Facebook lagged behind its peers in removing The Proud Boys; Twitter banned the organisation and its founder back in August, BuzzFeed News reported at the time.  

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