On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it would remove the pages of groups that support violent riots, including many antifa organizations. Among many others, Facebook removed the Pacific-Northwest Youth Liberation Front, an antifa group that incited violent riots across the country on July 25. Facebook did not just remove antifa groups, but also militia organizations and organizations linked to the QAnon conspiracy.
“We already remove content calling for or advocating violence and we ban organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission. However, we have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior,” Facebook announced in a statement Wednesday.
“So today we are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform,” the social media company added. “While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organize on our platform.”
“For militia organizations and those encouraging riots, including some who may identify as Antifa, we’ve initially removed over 980 groups, 520 Pages and 160 ads from Facebook. We’ve also restricted over 1,400 hashtags related to these groups and organizations on Instagram,” Facebook reported.
Under the new policy, Facebook will “impose restrictions to limit the spread of content from Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts.” The company will also “remove Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts where we identify discussions of potential violence, including when they use veiled language and symbols particular to the movement to do so.”
Andy Ngo, editor-at-large at The Post Millennial and a journalist on the front lines of reporting on antifa, suggested a few organizations Facebook should target.
With @Facebook announcing it will ban violent extreme #antifa groups from the platform, I hope it starts with closing these groups & many others. Big tech has been complicit in allowing antifa terrorists to carry out acts of organized violence across American cities. pic.twitter.com/prXdtnOxM8
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 19, 2020
Ngo also warned Facebook that many antifa groups do not use the word “antifa” in their names by design.
Facebook did indeed take down the Pacific-Northwest Youth Liberation Front page, one of many Ngo had identified.
Breaking: @Facebook has taken down the page of @pnwylf. The Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front is the #antifa group responsible for organizing the ongoing riots in Portland. They've called for solidarity riots in other cities as well, which did happen in July. pic.twitter.com/VjcVkAOuDc
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 19, 2020
Ngo had testified about the Youth Liberation Front before the Senate earlier this month.
“In Portland, the violence has been organized and led by the local chapter of the Youth Liberation Front, a shadowy antifa organization with secret membership,” Ngo explained. The Youth Liberation Front has cells across the U.S. “They openly advocate for violent uprisings in Portland and elsewhere.”
In addition to removing antifa and other groups from Facebook, the company announced that it would limit recommendations from similar groups that have not been removed, reduce the News Feed rankings of similar groups, reduce their results in Search, reconsider the “Related Hashtags” feature on Instagram, and prohibit similar groups from buying ads, using monetization tools, and fundraising.
Facebook announced that it had removed “over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook, blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram, and additionally imposed restrictions on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.”
While Facebook’s increasing restrictions are rightly controversial, the company’s decision to move against antifa groups that encourage violent riots is encouraging. The violent riots that came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots.
Although conservatives can rightly complain about apparent bias in Facebook’s censorship, this move to crack down on leftist-inspired violence should assuage some of their deepest fears about the social media platform.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.