Broken Promises

On Facebook, Far-Right Militias Stoke Trucker Convoy Headed to D.C.

Facebook has failed to remove U.S.-based militia groups from its platform. Now they’re organizing support for the trucker protests making their way to Washington.

Facebook has struggled for years to control the spread of far-right militias on its platform.

Now, many of these same groups are using Facebook to organize support for truckers threatening to descend on the Washington, D.C. area next week in a replica of the protests that paralyzed the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

A new investigation by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found that multiple militia groups, some of them associated with the anti-government Three Percenters, are urging their members to provide donations and security to the truckers, who are protesting Covid rules like mask mandates and vaccine requirements.

The findings highlight how Facebook is allowing militia groups to latch on to the trucker protests as a way to galvanize their movement and advance their extremist agenda. Facebook pledged to take action against U.S.-based militia organizations more than 18 months ago, but they continue to operate freely on the platform.

TTP’s investigation also found that Canadian Facebook groups that sprung up to support the trucker protests in Ottawa frequently used rhetoric about “tyranny” and “civil war” that mirrors the violent and anti-government language prevalent in American militia groups on Facebook.

This strongly suggests that Facebook—now part of Meta—is helping U.S. militia groups export extremist views beyond America’s borders.

Three Percenters

Canadian police recently cleared trucks and protesters from downtown Ottawa after a more than three-week occupation that snarled cross-border trade with the U.S. and prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke rarely used emergency powers. But a new convoy plan quickly emerged, with the goal of bringing truckers from various parts of the U.S. to Washington, D.C., by early March, around the time of President Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress.

It's not clear if the truckers will manage to disrupt the Washington area, but authorities are taking precautionary measures. The Pentagon approved deployment of up to 700 National Guard members to D.C., aiming to avoid a major security event in a city still reeling from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol (a violent event that was organized on Facebook). Reports from Adelanto, California, where one convoy set off last week, indicate that some backers of the convoy have connections to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

TTP’s investigation identified a number of militia groups, some of them affiliated with the anti-government Three Percenter movement, that are actively organizing support for the trucker convoys to D.C.

For example, the Facebook group for the militia “Legion Of Unity Christian Warriors Patriot Coalition,” which sports the Three Percenters symbol “III” in its cover photo, has urged its members to start preparing to provide logistical support the American truckers.

On Feb. 10, the administrator of the group shared a post that read:

Please plan ahead and prepare your food pantries, water, gas and any other needs. These truckers are going to be tied up and want you to be prepared. These truckers are planning to go across the country on March 1st, 2022 to peacefully fight for our freedom, giving you time to prepare your food, water and fuel sources.

The admin, whose profile photo features the Three Percenters logo, also shared a post on Feb. 20 calling on truckers to meet at the convoy staging area in Adelanto, California, and showed a map with the projected route to Washington.

The Three Percenters, a loosely organized part of the far-right militia movement, gained national attention after some of its members were charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Canada declared the Three Percenters a terrorist entity in June 2021, calling them a source of “growing concern.”

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Another Three Percenter-linked page called “Patriots Time to Stand” shared posts and videos in support of the convoys in both the U.S. and Canada.

One Feb. 12 post featured a video about the “USA Freedom Convoy” with the hashtag #standup. Another Feb. 7 post with the slogan “Hold the line!!! It’s time to stand up AMERICA!!” included a video of a man who appears to be a trucker ranting, “There’s a revolution going on. It’s starting up. It’s going worldwide. Nothing can stop it. Every corrupt politician is being put on notice.”

The page does little to hide its Three Percenter ideology. Among the page’s first images is a military-style vest with an “AP III%” patch (a reference to American Patriots Three Percent militia). On Feb. 12, the page began running a Facebook ad featuring a “III” logo with text that reads, “WHEN TYRANNY BECOMES LAW, REBELLION BECOMES DUTY.”

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TTP also identified militia groups on Facebook that are aiming to provide support to the trucker convoy, even though they’ve been banned by the platform.

For example, on Feb. 11, a member of the California State Militia group shared a post about the group’s logistical efforts:

California State Militia 2nd Regiment, has established a support/ logistics base for the Freedom Truckers coming out of Northern and Central California. The base is developing and supplies/ donations are coming in. The supplies will be disseminated by allied patriot groups while the militia concerns itself C&C, staffing, security, and logistics.

Facebook included the California State Militia and its 2nd Regiment on a blacklist of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations,” according to leaked internal company documents published by The Intercept in Oct. 2021.

The same California State Militia member who posted about the U.S. convoy has been openly recruiting and organizing for his group for about a year on Facebook. On Feb. 8, he posted a recruiting call on his public profile, writing, “COME MEET YOUR LOCAL MILITIA AND SIGN UP TO JOIN OUR RANKS!”

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Meanwhile, Matt Wakulik, the leader of a Pennsylvania militia called Iron City Citizen Response Unit (ICCRU), which is also on Facebook’s blacklist, sought to make common cause with the Canadian trucker protest.

On Feb. 15, the “Matt Wakulik for Governor” Facebook page slammed Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act to clear away the truckers in Ottawa, calling it a “military action.” The next day, the same page posted a promotion for the Iron City Citizen Response Unit, with a photo of two men in camouflage holding semiautomatic rifles.

Wakulik, on his personal Facebook profile, also used the trucker protests as an opportunity to promote militia. “Truckers are all well and good, but a MILITIA is what is ‘necessary,’” he wrote in a Feb. 16 post. His followers replied with comments of support like “Our time is coming!” and “Militia is EXACTLY the answer!!!”

In one live video earlier in the month, Wakulik spoke with Steve Lynch, a failed Republican candidate in Pennsylvania who reportedly threatened to harass pro-mask school boards. Lynch marveled at how Facebook brought the two men together: "Matt is a gentleman, a patriot I met—I met on Facebook actually. It's funny Facebook tries to censor us but still allows the patriots to work with each other."

(TTP named both Wakulik and Lynch because they have been political candidates.)

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Some militia groups that TTP has identified in public reports—but Facebook never removed—are also seeking to aid the U.S. convoy.

Take “US Freedom Fighters,” an anti-vaccine militia group that TTP named in an August 2021 report. Members of the group promoted a Facebook event listing for a “Freedom rally” on Feb. 19 in Warwick, Rhode Island. The event description states that “freedom fighters have teamed up with the truckers convoy to DC” and would collect convoy donations. Another member of the group shared a link with information about how people can volunteer to support the truckers, dubbed the “Convoy4Freedom2022.”

One member of the group shared a conspiracy-laden article about “globalist” plots that calls vaccine requirements “a declaration of war” and adds, “Yes, we are all truckers now.”

It's not clear why Facebook allows US Freedom Fighters to continue to operate on the platform, given that TTP flagged it seven months ago. The group’s repeated sharing of conspiracy theories and talk of civil war appears to violate Facebook’s Tier 3 Community Standards on “Militarized Social Movements” and “Violence-Inducing Conspiracy Networks.” The company’s policy states that “Tier 3 entities may not have a presence or coordinate on our platforms.”

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The militia group “Lianos Battle Buddies LLC,” which TTP highlighted in a January report, is embracing the truckers as well. (The group was previously called “2nd Amendment Protectors.”)

On Feb. 4, an admin of the group posted a map of proposed trucker convoy routes from northeastern states to D.C. and urged members to “start canvasing these travel corridors” to identify highway overpasses to hang signs, “intercept points” where smaller subgroups of trucks can join the convoy, and places to refuel.

One member of the group went further, saying, “US truckers should barricade the DC capital and all 50 state capital buildings until covid mandates are rescinded, and they pass a federal law stipulating term limits of no more than 12-years for all political positions within the United States.”

Lianos Battle Buddies now operates a “backup” Facebook group which, like its original incarnation, is called “2nd Amendment Protectors.” A Feb. 15 post in that backup group promoted a Washington state fundraising event for the D.C. convoy, complete with donation boxes for the truckers.

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In the Facebook group for the militia North Idaho Freedom Fighters, which TTP flagged in January, a member asked for volunteers to send supplies to the truckers. On Feb. 21, another member posted a video of a man in a military-style vest staring into the camera while the song “Hallelujah” played in the background. The man remained silent as text ran across the screen that appeared to threaten authorities who intervene with the convoys:

To all the Corrupt officers in Ottawa Canada. To all the corrupt officers in America. Just remember veterans and patriots alike Will protect our freedom and our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic And to all you corrupt officers you’re on the losing side.

One member of North Idaho Freedom Fighters spouted wild conspiracy theories about Canada’s crackdown on the truckers in Ottawa, writing that the “vaccine mandate” is “leading to the full control and enslavement of humanity” and a “5G smart grid Orwellian society.” He added: “THERE ARE ONLY 2 sides!! Humanity and the ruling pedo satanic royal bloodline elite globalist pigs that have been running the show for far too long.”

Despite containing multiple false and dangerous conspiracy theories, the post carried no fact check or misinformation labels from Facebook.

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‘We must stand by them’

TTP’s investigation found that American militia members are frequently using the Canadian crackdown against the Ottawa truckers to try to galvanize their movement.

In one Facebook group called “Convoy To DC 2022 Restart Original,” a member posted on Feb. 19 that “Canada is on the brink of civil war… we must stand by them.” The user is the admin of a Facebook militia group called “A.R.C.,” which stands for America’s Resistance Coalition Force, according to pamphlets shared in the group.

On Feb. 20, the admin posted in the A.R.C. group that the “UN has just landed in Canada to assist with the destruction of freedom… it’s likely the same thing that’s happening in Canada will happen here.”

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On Feb. 20, an admin for the Facebook group “Mini-Cassia Patriots” cited the Canadian police response to the trucker protests and the U.S. government’s support for Trudeau as a warning for what could happen in America:

I hope you all, my fellow Patriots, are following the absolute tyranny which is happening to our good neighbors to the north. … Our freedoms are under attack by a tyrannical government here in the USA which supports Trudeau’s crackdown on the ability to peacefully protest. … If you support the cause of freedom here in our country, counties, community and homes, then reach out to a member of the 31st BTN. 43FF. militia and begin to train with us.

The Mini-Cassia Patriots Facebook group frequently seeks to recruit new members and organize trainings. Last year, the militia indicated it hosted monthly recruitment meetings at a local sheriff’s office in Cassia County, Idaho—suggesting a cozy relationship between local police and the militia group.

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TTP also noticed a troubling trend when studying the Canadian convoy groups that sprung up on Facebook to support the truckers in Ottawa: They frequently featured anti-government slogans and talk of civil war that are more commonly associated with American far-right militias.

In a Canadian Facebook group called “Convoy 2022 War Room,” a member posted about Trudeau’s intention to invoke emergency powers, asking “what will this mean for our truckers on the hill?” The first reply was “civil war.” Another commenter warned of potential “martial law” and said, “Be ready boys!!!” One member of the group shared a video of police response to the convoy that said, “I smell civil war in coming to Canada.” (The group, which counts over 100,000 members, later changed its name to “Freedom War Room.”)

In another group called “Hug a Trucker 2022!,” a member said Trudeau had “declared civil war against innocent Canadians.” The group has amassed nearly 152,000 members since it was created Jan. 21.

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Such rhetoric about civil war echoes a central talking point of the so-called boogaloo movement, which TTP has been tracking on Facebook since 2020. Boogaloo adherents, who foresee a militant uprising in the U.S., tried to fan fears about government lockdown mandates at the start of the pandemic to build support for their movement on Facebook.

TTP also noticed members of Canadian convoy groups referring to Trudeau as a “tyrant” and calling on police to stand down. The highly charged language around “tyrant” and “tyranny” is similar to what American anti-government militia have been using for years. For example, members of a Michigan anti-government group who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Gretchen Whitmer called her a “tyrant,” according to federal officials.

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The presence of this kind of militant rhetoric in Canadian Facebook groups comes amid fears about the growth of Canada’s own far-right militia movement. In the weeks leading up to the trucker convoy in Ottawa, Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) warned that extremists were “likely” involved in the protest movement and that supporters of the convoy had called for civil war and violence against Trudeau.

On Feb. 14, Canadian authorities arrested and charged four men in Coutts, Alberta, with conspiring to murder officers. According to the CBC, police seized a cache of weapons from the men and found that two of them had ties to the founder of a neo-fascist, white supremacist group. Authorities said one of the men repeatedly posted to Facebook about his willingness to die for their cause. Another posted a video to Facebook titled “Call to Action” the day before his arrest. In the video, he says, “Come on down tonight, there's no excuses, this is war. Your country needs more than ever now.”

TTP identified a Facebook page for the “Canada Citizen’s Militia,” which posted memes accusing the government of abuses and declaring, “SILENCE IS NO LONGER AN OPTION.” The page also linked to posts about “Canada Revolution Time” and shared flyers organizing buses to bring protesters to Ottawa.

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