Violent militia groups are banned from Facebook. But some of those groups are sneaking back online and co-opting discussions of a right-wing “convoy” to D.C., a new report finds.

The report, by the research nonprofit Tech Transparency Project, found paramilitary groups ratcheting up the rhetoric on pro-convoy Facebook pages, even when some of those militia groups had already been banned from the website.

“We’ve been concerned about seeing the rhetoric around ‘tyranny’ and ‘civil war’ in a lot of these groups, because the same type of rhetoric and the volume of it in these large Facebook groups precipitated the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” TPP Director Katie Paul told The Daily Beast.

Participants, truckers and supporters, prepare to depart for the day in the ‘People’s Convoy’ on their way to Washington, DC to protest COVID-19 mandates on February 25, 2022 in Lupton, Arizona. The protestors are calling for a full re-opening of the country and are scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC, on March 5.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson noted that militarized social movements, including militias, are banned from the site, and that Facebook has removed more than 1,000 such groups. The spokesperson said Facebook has subsequently removed some of the militia pages cited in the TPP report, which was released Monday morning

The convoy to D.C. is modeled after a similar effort in Canada, where drivers blockaded the city of Ottawa, ostensibly over vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers. The protest was hardly representative of those international truckers, more than 90 percent of whom are vaccinated. Instead, the city was besieged by a motley collection of tractor-trailers and personal vehicles, which dispersed after police intervened this month.

The U.S. protests are even less centralized. Organized in a series of Facebook groups and Telegram channels, the demonstration is less an authentic trucker movement and more a consortium of right-wing grievances.

Some of those convoy organizers are even further right than advertised, the TPP report found.

The Three Percenters, a loosely organized coalition of anti-government militias, is “actively organizing support for the trucker convoys to D.C.,” the report found. One such group, which sports a Three Percenter logo in its Facebook cover photo, was attempting to make inroads with the convoy by arranging food and fuel deliveries to drivers who hope to converge on D.C. in March.

Calls to support the convoy do not violate Facebook rules, the company spokesperson noted. But some of the militia groups are in open violation of the site’s policies “against militarized social movements and violence-inducing conspiracy networks.” The aforementioned Three Percenter group, which described itself as a “Christian patriot warriors coalition” appears to have been removed from Facebook on Monday.

Still, members of banned groups have managed to evade Facebook’s policies to promote their militia groups on trucker convoy pages—and even go recruiting.

The groups California State Militia and California State Militia 2nd Regiment are both on Facebook’s list of banned organizations, the Intercept reported last year. But individual members of the group have promoted it in convoy pages, advertising the militia as a hub for donations and logistical support.

“The supplies will be disseminated by allied patriot groups while the militia concerns itself C&C [command and control, or communications and control], staffing, security, and logistics,” the self-described militia member wrote, according to the TPP report. The post ended with a link to the militia’s website. Two days earlier, he had used his page for a militia recruitment drive. “COME MEET YOUR LOCAL MILITIA,” he wrote, “AND SIGN UP TO JOIN OUR RANKS!”

Some militia leaders, like a fringe Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate, have suggested that the convoy represents a way for militia movements to slip under Facebook’s radar.

“Truckers are all well and good, but a MILITIA is what is ‘necessary,’” that militia leader wrote in a Facebook post this month. Earlier in February, that militia leader had held a livestreamed conversation with another failed Pennsylvania political candidate, in which they discussed using convoy-friendly innuendos to smuggle militia talking points onto Facebook.

“They said, we’re gonna try to use code words and avoid things that could get us banned. By code words, they mean using ‘patriots’ instead of ‘militia,’” Paul, the TPP director, said of the conversation. “And then at some point they eventually slip and just start using the word ‘militia.’”

Some of the flirtation between militia groups and convoy supporters is mutual, said Paul. Although the largest attempted convoy announced a route across the southern U.S., Paul cited a discussion from a pro-convoy group, in which a woman asked the drivers to detour through “Montana and Idaho [because] those are militia states. They’ll have more support.”

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