Armed profiles: the use of Facebook by FARC dissidents

6 minutes
Armed profiles: the use of Facebook by FARC dissidents
"A digital artwork depicting a Facebook profile page overlaid with a pattern of military camouflage", interpreted by DALL-E3.

"Status: Single. Lives in: Arauca. Works in: Titiro Martínez Farc-EP mobile column," reads the description of a user on Facebook. The profile is part of a group of 50 accounts of members of the FARC dissidents on this social network detected by La Silla Vacía. In partnership with this media, we analyzed the presence of members of this armed group on the platform.

The registered users belong to the Central General Staff (EMC, by its acronym in Spanish) of the Farc-EP, a dissidence of the guerrilla demobilized after the peace agreements in Colombia in 2016, and now included in the 'Total Peace', the policy of Gustavo Petro's government for a new negotiation process with armed groups and criminal gangs in the country.

The profiles of EMC members are full of images in which they carry weapons, wear camouflaged guerrilla uniforms and show images of coca plantations. "It's as if it were a theater group, which publishes on social networks as if it were nothing," Pastor Alape, a former member of the former FARC , told La Silla Vacía.

This is not the first time that conflicts and armed or organized crime groups in Latin America have made their way into the digital sphere. In 2020, the New York Times reported on a trend on TikTok in which content extolling the culture of drug trafficking - with Mexican corridos in the background - went viral on that platform. In turn, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recorded last year that drug trafficking groups were carrying out their activities through social networks in the region.

Tensions with content moderation

The presence of members of this organization on the platform, as well as much of the content they disseminate, violates Facebook's rules. To avoid becoming centers for the promotion of terrorism or a means of recruitment, the platform contemplates some prohibitions to deal with this type of content.

The company's dangerous people and organizations policy classifies these subjects into three levels, taking into account their online and offline behavior. The first level covers terrorist organizations, hate entities and large-scale organized crime groups. As an example, this category includes entities designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. government.

As a result of the peace negotiations, in 2021 the U.S. Secretary of State revoked the Farc's foreign terrorist group status, but maintained it for the factions that did not join the process.

In any case, the dissidents that are using Facebook also meet the company's other criteria for considering an organization as terrorist: having political or ideological objectives and engaging in acts of violence that affect the civilian population. In this regard, the policies prohibit the presence of these entities on its platforms and do not allow content that exalts them, offers them substantial support or represents them.

Many of the accounts registered by La Silla Vacía take advantage of Facebook to share information and publish official communiqués. In addition, users indicate in the information box of their profile that they work or hold a position in the FARC-EP.

Profile information of one of the accounts.

The profiles publish content in favor of the organization, such as alleged acts of reforestation, reels of confrontations with songs in the background, and invitations to the population to join their cause. For example, on October 5, the account of the 'Jorge Suarez Briceño Bloc' published a video in which camouflaged and armed youths encourage people to join the group's ranks. "Join our fight, we are waiting for you," says a woman in the publication.

Most of the content promoting and representing EMC on Facebook corresponds to personal accounts whose reach is limited, as they do not have a significant number of friends or followers. In part, the low visibility could explain why they go unnoticed by the company's detection systems or by other users who report them.

Despite disseminating content in favor of the dissidents, it does not appear to be a coordination campaign to disseminate propaganda for the organization, but rather an authentic activity. While during the armed conflict in Colombia, members of armed groups tried to remain clandestine, this phenomenon of exposure on Facebook can be explained in part because the organization's base is made up of a generation that grew up with access to social media, as Kyle Johnson, co-founder of Conflict Responses, an organization that investigates disinformation surrounding the armed conflict and peacebuilding in Colombia, explained to La Silla Vacía.

Read the article by La Silla Vacía in partnership with Circuito.

To stay abreast of events in the digital world that impact democracy, subscribe to Botando Corriente, our newsletter:

go home