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Convoy to D.C.: Meta watches and waits as Facebook groups organize more trucker protests

Facebook has come under fire as a place where protest movements go awry. For now, it says merely opposing vaccine mandates doesn’t violate its guidelines.

Convoy to D.C.: Meta watches and waits as Facebook groups organize more trucker protests
[Source Images: Jon Feingersh/Getty; Daniel Kaesler/EyeEm]

A month after Canada’s Freedom Convoy shipped off to raise hell against COVID restrictions, American truckers are giving it a go.

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Inspired by its northern neighbors—who wreaked havoc along the border, blocked trade at key U.S.-Canada crossings, and then paralyzed the streets of downtown Ottawa for three weeks—the “People’s Convoy” left California on Wednesday bound for Washington, D.C. Starting with roughly 40 trucks, the protest’s organizers say they expect the caravan to grow by thousands as it makes its way across the country.

Much of the organizing is via Facebook, where a group named “The People’s Convoy – Official” has more than 200,000 members. With an image of the Constitution—next to an American flag and a bald eagle—as a banner, the group bills itself as a drive to bring back freedom, civil liberty, and “an end to all unconstitutional mandates,” presumably referring to vaccines and face masks. “It’s not about political parties, but moreso about a government that has forgotten its place,” a mission statement insists.

But according to reports, the group is more marshaled by party lines than it lets on. It appeared closely aligned with far-right activists, with many vehicles bearing slogans like “Let’s go Brandon,” a meme meant to disparage President Biden. Flags strewn about and the convoy’s kickoff rally were reminiscent of Trumpian “Make America Great Again” culture. According to the New York Times, many of those behind the protest are linked to the deadly attack on the Capitol Building in January 2021.

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The People’s Convoy is also just one of a cavalcade of truck convoys embarking this week, all with various routes and leadership. Grievances focus on COVID mandates but range to economic shutdowns and the cost of fuel.

Fast Company reached out to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to ask what actions it has taken in light of concerns that the convoys—many assembled through Facebook—could become road hazards or even worse, spin into chaos. A Meta spokesperson replied that “Voicing opposition to government mandates is not against Meta’s policies. . . . We continue to monitor the situation and will enforce against violations.” It also noted that it has separately “removed multiple groups and Pages for repeatedly violating our policies,” including content from hate groups, conspiracy networks, such as QAnon, and spammers from foreign countries.

The statement suggests we might see scant action from Facebook, which has come under fire for its role in the plotting of violent protests, such as last year’s January 6 riot and, more recently, the Canadian blockades. Earlier this month, Congressional lawmakers wrote a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg questioning whether stolen or fake Facebook accounts were behind that blockade, potentially masterminded by Russia or other foreign powers.

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The leaders of the People’s Convoy say the demonstration will stay peaceful, and will end near the nation’s capital without breaching Washington, D.C. However, some unaffiliated convoys have spoken of possibly rolling through the city or cutting off the Beltway. In response, the Defense Department has beefed up security by deploying 700 unarmed National Guard troops in the district to assist D.C. traffic officers and police forces.

The People’s Convoy is scheduled to reach D.C. by March 5. Other are due to arrive as early as March 1.

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