Summary: The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violent interactions, often in support of Donald Trump, received prominent attention during the first Presidential debate of 2020 between Trump and Joe Biden. Upon being asked about whether or not he would condemn white supremacist groups that support him, Trump asked for an example. When given The Proud Boys, Trump told them to “stand back and stand by,” which many in the group took to be an endorsement of their activities.
However, after they received renewed attention at the 2020 debate, actor George Takei suggested “reclaiming” the #ProudBoys hashtag, and using it to promote the LGBTQ community instead, saying that they could respond to hate with love.
This made the hashtag go viral on a variety of platforms, including Twitter and Instagram (owned by Facebook). In response Facebook was accused (incorrectly) of only just blocking the hashtag after this attempt at reclaiming. However, Facebook exec Andy Stone noted that the opposite was true, and that Facebook was currently in the process of unbanning the hashtag after seeing how it had been reclaimed, and the meaning and usage changed.
Decisions to be made by Facebook:
Questions and policy implications to consider:
Resolution: By moving quickly, Facebook and Instagram were able to relatively quickly allow for this viral response to reclaim the hashtag from the group. However, it remains an open question whether or not this usage will stay, or if the group will move to reclaim it as well, creating a constant cat & mouse scenario for a content moderation team.
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