Facebook won't promote race war groups, but they can still exist

The company will no longer promote "Boogaloo" groups, but that's hardly enough.


Facebook says it will stop promoting groups related to the "Boogaloo" movement, a right-wing extremist movement that predicts the U.S. is headed towards a second Civil War. Some factions of the group fantasize about a race war while others — often gun rights activists — say they aren't racist but are simply anti-government. Multiple members have been reported protesting against coronavirus lockdowns while being heavily armed.

According to Reuters, at the beginning of May 2020 Facebook banned the term "Boogaloo" when accompanied by content pertaining to weapons or calls for war preparations. But it turns out that Facebook still recommended users in associated groups join other Boogaloo groups where such calls to action were common. Facebook says it has rectified this and that it's stopped recommending the groups. The groups aren't being deleted though, because Facebook has no interest in actually stopping hate groups.

Empty words — Facebook has long said it takes action against misinformation and violent content, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg frequently contradicts that, as he did recently when he decided to leave up President Trump's posts inciting violence. After Twitter placed fact-checks on several of Trump's tweets, Zuckerberg responded by saying that social media platforms "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online." It's unlikely Facebook's new "oversight board' that's tasked with making recommendations would help, because Zuckerberg can't be forced out of his role and still calls all the shots.

Facebook users are also able to easily sidestep the company's moderation algorithms by slightly modifying names. For instance, some Boogaloo groups have been renamed "Big Igloo" or "Big Luau" to continue to fly under the company's radar. Facebook uses automated systems and a light team of moderators to police the platform of over two billion users.

The story of Facebook's moderation failure is a repetitive one, with Zuckerberg constantly promising to do better only to fail to follow through.

Zuckerberg should go — The CEO continues to understate the scale of his platform's influence on society, even though the company's internal research has indicated that it encourages polarization and extremism. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Facebook's research concluded that 64 percent of "all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools."

Facebook became the behemoth it is today by ignoring the naysayers and asking for forgiveness, not permission. Zuckerberg's spearheaded that approach. The company needs a new leader who acknowledges the platform's power and at least tries to protect its billions of users from content that could genuinely lead to harm, physical or otherwise.