Facebook pages for several Idaho-based militias and organizations appear to have been banned from the social media site on Wednesday as part of a mass removal of groups that promote violence, according to Facebook.
As of Thursday morning, pages for the Real 3%ers of Idaho, Kootenai County Light Foot Militia, the Light Foot Militia, Oath Keepers of Kootenai County and the Oath Keepers of Bonner County all appeared to have been shut down. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Facebook was banning groups and accounts affiliated with militia and anarchist organizations. The widespread ban also included groups associated with QAnon, a conspiracy theorist group.
“For militia organizations and those encouraging riots, including some who may identify as antifa, the company said it has removed over 980 groups, 520 pages and 160 ads from Facebook,” the Associated Press reported.
It wasn’t clear how many Idaho-based groups were affected, and Facebook representatives had not responded to a Statesman request for comment by Thursday afternoon.
Eric Parker, founder of the Real 3%ers of Idaho group, said not only was his organization page removed from Facebook, but the page for his Idaho Senate campaign was also removed, as was his personal Facebook account and his wife’s personal account.
“I heard they were shutting down people’s pages and I went and checked on mine (on Wednesday afternoon) and it was gone,” said Parker in a phone interview.
Parker is perhaps best known for a viral 2014 photo in which he is laying on his stomach on a bridge during the government standoff near Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville, Nevada, ranch. Parker was aiming a rifle through concrete barriers toward the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp.
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In a statement to conservative website Redoubt News, Parker said his organization “got Zucked,” slang derived from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s name, which refers to being banned or removed from Facebook.
“We are not bigots,” Parker told Redoubt. “We are not anti-government extremists. We are not a militia. The last big thing we did with that page was organized potato drops around the state at the peak of the lockdown.”
Parker reiterated those points to the Statesman.
“Frankly, we don’t consider ourselves a militia,” Parker told the Statesman. “A militia runs around the woods and trains to fight some war. … We’re the same as any other nongovernmental organization.”
The Real 3%ers of Idaho split off from the Idaho branch of the national Three Percenters group several years ago. The Three Percenters’ name refers to claims that 3% of American colonists acted as a militia group during the American Revolution. The national Three Percenters Facebook page was also removed.
Parker said the Real 3%ers group was working on an organization website, but most of its communications and organizing were done via the Facebook page, which had more than 7,000 followers when it was deleted. Parker said he can rebuild the group’s online community but worries more about the removal of his campaign page. Parker is running as a Republican against incumbent Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, for District 26.
“I am working on getting ahold of the state (Republican) Party and filing a complaint with them (about the removal of the campaign page),” Parker said. “Social media was a big part of my campaigning, of everybody’s campaigning right now. I was doing pretty well and (Facebook) cut my legs out from under me.”
Parker said he’s also reaching out to Idaho’s Congressional delegation to ask for an investigation into what he believes amounts to the social media site “tampering in Idaho elections” by removing his campaign page.
“Really I just want to ask the question: Is this OK? Is it all right for them to do this?” Parker said. “Obviously they’re a private platform but they get tax breaks and a lot of things that claim they’re a public space.”