The Free States Militia might be able to handle anything the post-apocalyptic West Virginia wasteland can throw at them, but the Fallout 76 roleplayers have once again taken a heavy blow from their greatest foe: Facebook.
Styling themselves after the in-game Free States faction, the FSM have been booted from the social media platform once before. The group was accidentally included in a purge of violent militia groups from Facebook last October—and on January 9 was banned once again (spotted by Polygon). The FSM haven't heard from Facebook regarding this latest ban, though its members accept it is almost certainly linked to last week's violent storming of the U.S. Capitol, and a subsequent crackdown by social media platforms on extremist groups.
Facebook does have policies against dangerous individuals and organisations, of course. And while no-one would think for a second that the Free States Militia is actually plotting to overthrow governments, you can see how automated moderation would have massive problems distinguishing it from a real-world militia group.
The faction's leader Non_Serviam79, or Bobby, told us via DM that "We were all on FB to begin with. It's just easy to start a FB page. I wouldn't say we were drawn to it as much as it was convenient." The platform's reach subsequently made it a great place for the faction to find new members but, following this latest ban, Bobby says they're not going back.
"We are 100% done with FB as far as the club goes. I myself am leaving it personally as well. Time to detox I think."
The Free States Council meet in a secret bunker deep within the Mire to finalize plans to #WalkAway from @Facebook over their censorship and banning process. We are all old enough to chose for ourselves how we speak and what words we use. We will not be intimidated! pic.twitter.com/3baIHnkA8rJanuary 12, 2021
Bobby stresses that the group's content is 90 percent lore, with events and photos filling out the rest. But even after scrambling or dropping the 'Militia' part from the name, the group continues to fall afoul of Facebook's gaze. "FB has taken a hard line on certain things and they absolutely have that right. I am not trying to get them to change. But I will no longer be disciplined by people who refuse to look past flag words."
It does seem as though scrambling words like 'militia' is a dead-end, though, as it's exactly the kind of behaviour one would expect from a real-world example trying to fly under the radar. "It is very possible that masking words us a tactic that FB is aware of," acknowledges Bobby, adding "but without communication from them, it's impossible to know."
"Mature games designed with adult themes will contain dark content," ends Bobby. "[Fallout 76] is a game about post nuclear war. Raiders who sell humans as slaves, kill innocent people, drug use, alcohol, etc are all common themes. There will be bleedover from things seen or heard in the real world into what we see in fiction."
It is a strange case indeed: a harmless roleplaying group that makes complete sense in its context but, shorn of that same context at this precise moment in time, can sound like something else entirely. We've asked Bethesda and Facebook about the group's suspension: Bethesda said 'no comment', and Facebook is yet to respond.