Facebook removed accounts belonging to far-right group Patriot Prayer and its leader Joey Gibson on Friday, citing a new effort to eradicate “violent social militias” from the platform.
That effort emerged through a policy update in mid-August to the company’s rules around “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.” Those changes resulted in the removal of a number of groups and pages linked to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon and some militia organizations, as well as groups and pages linked to Antifa, a decentralized left-leaning ideology that opposes fascism.
“… We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior,” Facebook wrote in a blog post addressing the push to remove potentially violent groups.
Patriot Prayer is a Vancouver, Washington-based far-right group known for staging confrontational events in left-leaning urban centers. Patriot Prayer’s events, which often result in violence and street fighting, have historically attracted individuals from other extremist groups, including the Proud Boys and the neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa.
Last year, Gibson pled not guilty to felony riot charges stemming from a street fight in Portland in which he “pushed a woman, taunted a number of people and physically threatened others,” according to court documents obtained by KOIN News.
The group attracted national attention this week when one of its supporters, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, was shot and killed on Saturday night after a caravan of armed Trump supporters drove into downtown Portland to clash with racial justice protesters who have been demonstrating in the city center for more than three months.
A suspect in Danielson’s death, Michael Reinoehl, was shot and killed Thursday night when a task force of federal agents and local law enforcement made an effort to apprehend him near Olympia, Washington. Reinoehl appears to have been a self-described anti-fascist and a regular attendee of Portland’s ongoing protests.
TechCrunch reached out to YouTube and Twitter to see if those platforms have any plans to take action on Patriot Prayer’s accounts and will update this story if we learn more. The group has a Twitter account with more than 16,000 followers and the YouTube account “Joey Gibson Patriot Prayer USA” boasts more than 50,000 subscribers.
On Thursday, Gibson seemed to anticipate that the national attention might lead to his group being kicked off Facebook and encouraged Patriot Prayer supporters to follow him on the small conservative social network Parler.
“Facebook might ban me any minute,” Gibson wrote.