Facebook has started banning both individual accounts and pages, as well as associated groups, that are affiliated with the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys. The news was first reported today by Business Insider, which noted that members of the Proud Boys and adjacent online communities had begun complaining about the takedowns on Twitter.
The removals come in response to an act of violence in New York City earlier this month, in which members of the Proud Boys assaulted anti-fascist protestors outside a Republican club in Manhattan where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, also an original co-founder of Vice Media, was speaking. Facebook confirmed to The Verge that it was banning Proud Boys members and affiliated groups and pages from both its main social network and from Instagram. McInnes’ personal page is still active, but a number of high-profile groups, pages, and accounts have begun to disappear today.
“Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “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 company is citing violations of its rules on hate speech and the organizing of groups that spread hate both online and offline as the reason for the bans and removals.
The Proud Boys was formed in 2016 as the modern-day equivalent of a street gang. As self-described “western chauvinists,” McInnes leveraged alt-right and other fringe political communities on the internet and grassroots organizing to form a coalition of predominantly white men. The group champions far-right causes like white nationalism and supports other various forms of regressive political movements.
The group is also known for its often violent behavior against protestors of President Donald Trump and other members of the right, and for McInnes’ public condoning of such activity. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the Proud Boys a hate group. Following the attack in New York, McInnes told media organizations that he would be forcing participants in the assaults to come forward and surrender to law enforcement. A number of Proud Boys members have been arrested and charged over the brawl.