Facebook Temporarily Shut Down Anti-Migrant Group AZ Patriots' Page

AZ Patriots founder Jennifer Harrison
AZ Patriots founder Jennifer Harrison AZ Patriots / Facebook

UPDATE (7-23-2019): This post has been updated to include comment from Facebook.

Facebook confirmed that it briefly unpublished the online page of AZ Patriots, an anti-migrant extremist group known for livestreaming its vigilante antics on the southern border.

AZ Patriots violated Facebook's community standards "multiple times" and surpassed the number of allowed violations, a spokesperson for the company said in an email.

Upon further review, however, Facebook determined that "the last piece of content" the site removed did not violate its rules.

"As soon as we identified that mistake, we quickly worked to restore the post and republish the Page," the spokesperson said, adding that Facebook could unpublish the page again if it violates additional rules.

Facebook did not specify which posts resulted in "strikes" against AZ Patriots. Nor did it say which post the company mistakenly identified as a violation.

AZ Patriots leader Jennifer Harrison announced the action on her personal Facebook pages this weekend.

"Facebook unpublished my AZ Patriots page," she said. "Free speech is dead. Fuck Facebook."

Founded in February, AZ Patriots steadily rose to become one of the best-known among a new crop of vigilante groups who broadcast themselves on the southern border, accosting migrants and spreading claims of human trafficking with scant evidence.

Borrowing a worldview from old-school militias, while adopting new media technology, AZ Patriots quickly attracted a nationwide following since its founding in February, with videos regularly reaching tens of thousands of viewers.

Those videos — including clips of members intimidating church volunteers, dumping trash outside the Phoenix Democratic headquarters, and riding along with a Border Patrol agent — were maintained on the AZ Patriots Facebook page.

On Monday many of those videos had been migrated to a newly-created Facebook page called AZ Patriots United.

"New page up and running," Harrison wrote on Sunday, linking to her group's new page. "Now I gotta upload all of the videos."

Harrison did not respond to request for comment.

In recent months, Harrison has cast her group as a victim of censorship and political correctness.

That narrative gained fuel after several Phoenix-area churches sued AZ Patriots and a similar group called Patriot Movement AZ for intimidating volunteers who helped distribute food and arrange shelter for undocumented immigrants during an influx of asylum-seekers inundating the southern border.

The lawsuit brought AZ Patriots attention from far-right websites, including an interview on Infowars, the conspiracy theory-promoting organization that was also banned from Facebook.

According to Harrison, that interview partially led to Facebook shutting down the group's page.

The action against AZ Patriots' page appears to have resulted from suspensions of several of Harrison's personal Facebook accounts. In the comments of her announcement posts, Harrison said that one of her personal accounts was banned for 30 days for sharing a video of an interview she did with Infowars, the far-right website headed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Another account of Harrison's was suspended after she made a comment about "the ICE raids," she said.

Because some of Harrison's suspended accounts administered the AZ Patriots Facebook page, she said, the company shut down the group's account.
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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
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