Facebook and Instagram are shutting down accounts associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right street fighting group whose members viciously assaulted counter-protesters following an event at the New York City Metropolitan Republican Club earlier in October.
According to Business Insider, which first reported the story, Facebook, which also owns and operates Instagram, began banning the Proud Boys on Tuesday for violating the social media giant’s hate groups policy.
“Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech…to better understand hate organizations as they evolve,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
Facebook isn’t the first platform to take action against the Proud Boys. In August, Twitter banned a number of their accounts, including one belonging to the group’s founder Gavin McInnes, ahead of the Unite the Right anniversary rally in Washington D.C. According to Buzzfeed News, the Proud Boys had violated Twitter’s policy on “violent extremist groups.”
The ban is a bitter blow to the Proud Boys, who along with other far-right groups have used Facebook groups — and increasingly Instagram — as a way to organize and amplify their message. This is particularly true now, bearing in mind that Gab, a “free speech” social media platform which has become a haven for the far-right, has been deplatformed after it emerged that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter regularly posted anti-Semitic content on there.
However, as is so often the case when de-platforming far-right hate groups, the ban is likely to turn into a game of online whack-a-mole. McInnes, for instance, has made repeated, failed attempts to return to Twitter and still has a show on Conservative Review TV, and numerous Proud Boys channels still exist on YouTube. The Proud Boys also maintain their own merchandise and magazine websites, the latter of which had a still-active Facebook page as of Wednesday morning.
So far, the NYPD has arrested six Proud Boys and three anti-fascists in relation to the violence that occurred outside the Metropolitan Republican Club earlier this month, and is looking to hit them with assault and riot charges. Several of the Proud Boys involved in the fighting have ties to skinhead groups, including the 211 Bootboys, a far-right skinhead group, and B49, a Latino skinhead group. The B49 member, Irvin Antillon, was one of those arrested, and had previously attended the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Proud Boys have also repeatedly collaborated with American Guard, most recently at a rally in Providence, Rhode Island. According to the Anti-Defamation League, American Guard is a hardcore white supremacist group that formed from the Soldiers of Odin, a Finnish anti-refugee group known for conducting vigilante “patrols” against migrants.