In June 2020, an Air Force sergeant was charged with two counts of murder targeting law enforcement personnel in Oakland and Santa Cruz, California. The killer left behind a tactical vest, igloo patch, and “boog” scrawled in blood on his vehicle—all clear links to the extremist Boogaloo movement.
The term “Boogaloo” was unknown to most until early 2020. This is when the movement began more publicly exposing their initiatives, both online and offline, by leveraging civil unrest related to COVID-19 lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests across the United States. The movement has made appearances at rallies across the country, donned in Hawaiian shirts and tactical gear.
This anti-government militia group, which aims to instigate a second civil war, poses a serious national security threat—but the movement is deceptive and not well-understood by the public, government, law enforcement, and counter-terror organizations.
Discovered on 4chan using Beacon
As Boogaloo activity grows online, accessing less-regulated social platforms is critical to understanding and addressing this domestic extremist threat.
How the Boogaloo Uses Social Media
The Boogaloo is unique from other extremist movements in its fluidity. It’s more of an opportunity to absorb and leverage other groups, movements, and civil unrest in the name of its cause than a distinct, organized ideology.
These co-opted groups include a range of audiences across the political spectrum—from Black Lives Matter protesters, to second amendment activists, extreme right-wing and militant anti-government groups, active and former military personnel, and disenfranchised individuals confronted with isolation, unemployment, and other current social issues.
“The boogaloo won’t present itself as either Trump-based, right wing, or white-supremacist ideology, with any one set of predictable grievances. These events suggest that the boogaloo seeks to co-opt several grievances, across several political and racial spectrums into a single, monolithic and anti-government mob with chilling new tactical and technological capacities.”
—NCRI: COVID-19, Conspiracy and Contagious Sedition: A Case Study on the Militia-Sphere
Like other extremist movements, the Boogaloo relies on social media to grow, communicate, organize, and recruit. Activity has grown significantly on Facebook, which has been handled by the platform with much criticism. As concerning is the Boogaloo on less-regulated sites like Gab, Telegram, 4chan, and Discord, where extremist chatter is more likely to go unchecked.
According to a report by the Network Contagion Research Institute, Boogaloo activity has nearly doubled on Reddit since November 2019, with significant usage spikes on 4chan and Gab in January 2020 when COVID-19 became widespread.
To engage disenfranchised groups and individuals, even when they’re politically disparate, the Boogaloo movement creates narratives related to divisive current events like COVID-19 and BLM protests, as well as more mainstream conspiracies and right-wing ideology.
“The Atlanta police station is still standing. Now is your chance, Boog Bois.”—discovered on Twitter using Echosec.
The Boogaloo movement also circulates memes that laud violence, gamify anti-government initiatives, and promote revenge fantasies (for example, in response to Duncan Lemp’s death). Boogaloo narrative often centers on calls to action, especially surrounding ongoing protests. Boogaloo “shitposting” is also prevalent on networks like TikTok—and self-identified active-duty military personnel are engaging in popular Boogaloo platforms like Discord to discuss protest disruption tactics.
Why Monitoring Fringe Platforms Is Crucial
This engineered appeal to varied groups makes the Boogaloo very unique from other extremist movements. It also presents novel challenges in understanding the movement from a national security perspective.
For one, the group is rapidly expanding and evolving alongside current events, making speed-to-information challenging in the face of real public safety threats. Boogaloo jargon is also prolific and changes quickly based on context, or to intentionally avoid being monitored.
Because the movement shapeshifts and gets participation from diverse groups—from teenage TikTokers to militant right-wingers—it is also confusing to track and makes identifying real security risks from false positives difficult.
4chan user sharing radio transmitter instructions “for use in the big igloo”—discovered on 4chan using Echosec
Accessing niche social platforms where the Boogaloo operates in an uncensored environment is crucial for addressing these challenges. Unpacking this unmoderated chatter helps decipher how the movement communicates, co-opts, and organizes—which is key to informing de-escalation strategies. For example, monitoring the Boogaloo on networks like Gab, 4chan, Telegram, and Discord supports:
- Locating influential Boogaloo sites, groups, chats, and other public platforms
- More clearly defining the Boogaloo movement and typical user profiles
- Investigating current Boogaloo terminology and how it is used in different contexts
- Understanding how the movement is distributed online, which groups or individuals the movement is co-opting, and how this is accomplished
- Identifying imminent public safety threats
Collecting and Mapping Online Boogaloo Activity
Gathering this information is crucial to addressing Boogaloo threats—but efficiently collecting relevant activity across multiple sources would be nearly impossible without specialized tools. Public sector analysts and intelligence professionals also need to make sense of unstructured social media data. This requires collection tools and social data APIs that easily integrate with visualization software like Maltego and other external tooling.
For example, the screenshot below shows a Maltego graph created by importing social media data from several platforms using the keyword “WWG1WGA” (“where we go one we go all”), which is linked to Boogaloo and QAnon narratives:
The red points represent social media platforms, the green points represent users posting this keyword, and the blue points represent other hashtags used alongside “WWG1WGA.”
This helps visualize how Boogaloo narratives are distributed across different social platforms. Analysts can also clearly link Boogaloo keywords with associated hashtags to identify relationships to emerging topics, events, or groups. Applying further transforms enables investigators to unlock insights into specific data points, such as user aliases.
This visualization was made possible first by gathering social data through Echosec Systems, which aggregates posts from niche platforms like Telegram, Gab, Discord, 4chan, and more. Users can easily filter out specific Boogaloo keywords, top hashtags, trends, and influencers. Relevant data can be exported from Echosec Systems tools as a CSV for external analysis, or integrated easily into a defense agency’s tooling and interfaces with the Echosec Systems Platform API.
“Tomorrow we will bomb the White House to cause the boog yeah! Also Target CIA Headquarters FBI Head Office and make sure to be ready to boog by noon!”—discovered on 4chan using Beacon
Even after murders, planned attacks, and bomb threats, mainstream discourse around the Boogaloo as a legitimate terrorist movement have only recently surfaced. The group’s convoluted online presence and appeal to varied civil unrest only adds to these risks—not to mention its tactical capabilities with current and ex-military involvement.
There is work to do in understanding the Boogaloo and related risks. As mainstream social networks crack down on the movement’s content, monitoring, collecting, and mapping Boogaloo activity from more fringe social networks is necessary for addressing this emerging national security threat.
Working in counter-terrorism? Contact our team to learn more about our niche social platform coverage.