Facebook has banned of hundreds of accounts across its platform including accounts of groups considered violent; however, domestic terrorist Antifa accounts remain. Despite these bans, hundreds of companies enacting a boycott on Facebook advertising, under the direction of activist groups.
This sweeping move came only four days after a Justice Department task force was enacted by Attorney General William Barr to address violent extremist groups operating within the US.
Among those mentioned by Barr are the violent Antifa movement, and the recently emerged boogaloo, according to Fox Business.
The takedown of these pages has been seen as not enough by many corporations that use Facebook to advertise their businesses. As such, over 300 companies have issued temporary boycotts on buying advertising on that platform, according to NPR.
These companies are not concerned about the diminishment of free speech on the platform, but more that Facebook isn't doing enough to ban speech. Among these companies pulling their advertising for the day, up to a month, or longer, are Starbucks, Target, Volkswagen. Their complaint is that Facebook promotes hate speech.
However, these companies' complaints did not originate with their marketing departments, or even with their consumers. Instead, a coalition of advocacy groups has told these companies that they should use the power of their substantial purses to force Facebook to take broader, more sweeping action against free speech.
Colour of Change is one of these groups. Rashad Robinson, president of Colour of Change, spoke to NPR, saying that "this failure to address these problems have given those of us in the civil rights community, as well as corporations, only one path. And that is the path of having to pursue this boycott."
The coalition of activist groups, which is behind the instigation of the corporate boycott, has made ten demands of Facebook. These include refunding ad money to companies if their ads are displayed next to content that is then banned, and "cracking down on lies by politicians."
Companies, pressured by the coalition that urged this boycott, say that they are concerned about advertising "on a platform that isn't doing enough to curb hate," reports NPR.
Facebook uses both human moderators and AI to keep the platform safe from speech that too many people disagree with.
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Facebook VP Nick Clegg said "At Facebook, we have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech. We don't like it, our users don't like it, advertisers understandably don't like it... We benefit from positive human connection—not hate."
These comments were made after Facebook expanded its policies on hate speech. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post that:
"Many of the changes we're announcing today come directly from feedback from the civil rights community and reflect months of work with our civil rights auditors, led by noted civil rights and liberties expert Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, a partner at the respected civil rights law firm of Relman & Colfax."
He outlined four new tools Facebook would use to target and remove content. These are: "providing authoritative information on voting during the pandemic, additional steps to fight voter suppression, creating a higher standard for hateful content in ads, and labeling newsworthy content."
As regards the last line item, Zuckerberg wrote: "We'll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society—but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies." This is a reversal of Zuckerberg's previous position, was that it would not interfere in or moderate political speech.
In summation, he wrote: "We're continuing to review our policies, and we'll keep working with outside experts and civil rights organizations to adjust our approach as new risks emerge."
After this missive, Facebook took down 106 groups associated with "boogaloo," 220 user accounts, as well as 400 other groups that posted content that was found to be objectionable. Boogaloo is a term that was first reported on by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019.
In taking down the pages found to be associated with boogaloo, Facebook wrote in a blog post that "This violent network is banned from having a presence on our platform and we will remove content praising, supporting or representing it. It is actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement and government officials and institutions."
However, Facebook has left many Antifa pages up on their site.
The ADL describes Antifa as "a loose collection of groups, networks and individuals who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements."
The ADL associates the term boogaloo with second amendment advocates and white supremacists, who they say are prepping for a coming civil war. The term comes from a 1984 breakdancing movie sequel called Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, boogaloo is a term "regularly deployed by white nationalists and neo-Nazis who want to see society descend into chaos so that they can come to power and build a new fascist state."
They describe Antifa as "short for anti-fascist, is a broad, community-based movement composed of individuals organizing against racial and economic injustice. Those who identify with the label represent a large spectrum of the political left."
This move to ban or label political speech has some people concerned that social media companies are directly interfering in this year's contentious US presidential election. As some candidates are labeled, their speech censored, and post in favour of their success banned, while others are not, the fear is that big tech companies are taking control of the political discourse, with the help of special interest groups who tech companies fear will boycott their platforms, as they are currently doing.