Defend East County, the controversial social media group formed after Black Lives Matters protests in La Mesa in May, has been removed from Facebook, but in a swift reaction, the creator of the group has re-established a similar page.
It’s still not officially known why the original group was removed over the weekend. An email request from NBC 7.com to Facebook has yet to be returned.
The group, which had more than 22,000 members, was established by Justin Haskins, who has also not responded to requests for comment from NBC 7.
Defend East County’s logo can now be found on a page called Working Class Patriots. Haskins posted a message that said, “We are working to vet and approve.” By Monday afternoon, the page had grown to 1.6k members.
Haskins also posted an interview that said Facebook was “suppressing conservative voices" and mocked the social media site as “Facistbook” for shutting down what he called the “most successful patriot group in California.”
Defend East County has been a controversial site that some say promotes racism and violence.
In an October interview with NBC7.com, Haskins sought to distance the page from any militia groups, though he steadfastly said he supported the intent of militias.
“Defend East County is a community,” Haskins said at the time.
“The group grew very quickly, and we realized we had a platform, and I’ve tried to use that platform to bring the community together in defense and support of the community,” added Haskins in the October interview.
Haskins did say at the time that one member had posted a live video on the page that promoted establishing a militia. It’s not known if that post had anything to do with the removal of the group’s original page.
“He went on to make a video, which he since has deleted, saying he was going to create the largest and greatest militia this world has ever seen, and I immediately removed him from the page and distanced myself from him completely because that is not what I want at all,” Haskins said.
“Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and all of these groups have done a horrible job of keeping misinformation or hate speech from becoming just mainstream,” said Dean Nelson, Ph.D, who established the journalism department at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Nelson said that social media has been a “game changer” in the political landscape, but there is no filter to legitimize sources. He said Facebook had likely used an algorithm that determined Defend East County was promoting either some kind of hateful speech or hateful actions.
“It’s shifted the responsibility more to the public to have to sort out what is something based in fact and what is something that is trying to incite people,” Nelson said.