A report published Wednesday by the Tech Transparency Project, a project run by the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability, found the number of active groups has actually grown since June, when Facebook announced it would ban them. By July 24, there were roughly 20% more groups than there were in April, when TTP first warned of their growing online presence.
The loose-knit, gun-loving community of “Boogaloo bois” believes in the coming of a second U.S. Civil War. Members have used private Facebook groups to distribute information like bomb-making manuals, advice on kidnapping and evading authorities, and murder methods.
At least 110 Boogaloo groups have formed on Facebook since June 30, the day Facebook formally took action against them, and some now boast more than 1,000 members.
Circumventing Facebook’s efforts seemingly required little effort. TTP found that numerous groups at risk for removal escaped scrutiny by simply changing their name while leaving much of the rest of their content largely untouched. At least 39 such groups remain active thanks in part to that tactic.
Others have adapted by switching up their terminology to evade detection. Instead of “Boogaloo” or “big igloo” for instance, they might use the phrase “big luau” or entirely different words like “[redacted]” or “liberty.”
TTP found Facebook’s algorithm also continues to recommend Boogaloo-related groups to users regardless of a group’s name, helping swell their ranks with new members.
“Facebook’s supposed crackdown on Boogaloo supporters is nothing more than a PR stunt,” Campaign for Accountability’s executive director, Michelle Kuppersmith, said in an emailed statement.
“As long as Mark Zuckerberg refuses to get serious about enforcing his company’s own rules, Facebook users associated with dangerous organizations and movements will continue to exploit the platform’s laxity.”
A Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost that the company is trying to adapt to Boogaloo groups’ new tactics. “Since we banned a violent network tied to boogaloo, we have seen continued changes in language and tactics to try to evade our detection. Our team of experts has been expecting this behavior and we are updating the language and symbols we use to identify this network weekly to continue to enforce our policies,” the spokesperson said.
What began as a largely online movement transitioned into real-world violence as individuals linked to Boogaloo groups attempted to disrupt the anti-racist protests that sprung up around the country this summer.
In May, 32-year-old Boogaloo supporter Steven Carrillo murdered a federal protective security officer during a protest in Oakland, California. His partner in the crime, 30-year-old Robert Alvin Justus Jr., told the FBI the two met on Facebook.
In June, police in Denver seized a large cache of weapons and tactical gear from a Boogaloo member’s trunk after he and a friend parked near protests there.
Earlier that month, federal prosecutors in Nevada charged three men associated with Boogaloo with terrorism offenses after authorities broke up a plot to cause mass violence and hijack a Black Lives Matter demonstration using Molotov cocktails and explosives. They also were members of Facebook Boogaloo groups TTP identified in April.
And in previous months, an apparent Boogaloo supporter in Arkansas was charged with planning to kill a police officer after describing his plot on a Facebook livestream, while police in Missouri shot and killed a neo-Nazi with ties to the movement who was planning on blowing up a hospital.