Facebook removes pages belonging to far-right group 'Proud Boys'

“We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it,” Facebook said.
Image: CUNY Protests
Gavin McInnes at an alt-right rally in Manhattan in 2017.Susan Watts / Getty Images

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By David Ingram

Facebook on Tuesday began taking down pages affiliated with the "Proud Boys," a far-right organization whose members were allegedly involved in a violent fight in New York this month.

Pages on Facebook and Instagram that previously belonged to the group disappeared and instead showed messages saying they were not available. The social networking company confirmed the move and cited its policies against hate organizations and figures.

Several members of the Proud Boys were arrested this month, in the days after police said the group was involved in a fight with masked protesters belonging to the anti-fascist coalition Antifa. The fight occurred after Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes gave a speech on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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McInnes could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Social media services and other tech companies have faced pressure from some users to be more aggressive in enforcing their bars on hate speech, especially as online threats have evolved into violence in the real world. Other users have expressed concern about the companies becoming more powerful arbiters of speech.

Facebook said in a statement that it was studying trends in organized hate speech and working with partners including nonprofit organizations to understand how hate groups evolve.

“We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it,” the company said.

Researchers have doubted the effectiveness of Facebook’s enforcement, pointing to growing anti-Semitism on Instagram, for example, but the company said it was committed to “take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe.”

Twitter suspended accounts belonging to McInnes and the Proud Boys in August, citing its policy about “violent extremist groups.” It was not immediately clear if other tech companies would follow in Twitter and Facebook’s steps.

McInnes founded Proud Boys in 2016 and describes it as a "fraternal organization" for young "Western chauvinist" men. The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes it as a hate group.