Facebook Blames Error After Banning 'Fallout 76' Video Game Militia Role-Play Group

A video game role-playing group was banned from Facebook last week after being flagged, seemingly for having the term "militia" in its name.

Last Thursday, administrators for the Fallout 76 community confirmed their accounts had been banned from the social network without warning, and their long-running Facebook group was also removed—losing years of content.

Fallout 76, developed by Bethesda Game Studios, is an open-world role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic land, where players team up and explore online.

"So Facebook just banned our page and banned all admins from our gaming group. This is what censorship in the U.S. looks like! When Facebook can't tell the difference from video games and real life. We just lost 2 years of lore and pictures, the Twitter account for the group, named "Free States Militia," published on October 1.

So @Facebook just banned our page and banned all admins from our Gaming group. This is what censorship in the US looks like! When @Facebook cant tell the difference from video games and real life. We just lost 2 years of lore and pictures. @DCDeacon @fchadfallout76

— FSM Playstation Video Game Club (@Free_StatesMil) October 1, 2020

A creator of the private group, identified as Bobby, told PCGamesN that Facebook did not explain the reasons for the enforcement. He acknowledged members play as part of an anarchist group, but only in the context of the Fallout video game world.

"One minute we're here, the next minute we're deleted," another administrator for the Free States Militia, identified as Jessica, told PCGamesN.

"A videogame fansite based on an in-game faction of the same name,"Jessica added. "It makes no sense, especially when there are still real-life militia groups up and running on Facebook. In the end, I don't care about my account, that can be gone if it needs to be. I just want my photos, documents, and 12 years of memories back."

After complaints were raised with the social network, the private group and its admin accounts were restored. Facebook suggested it had been an error linked to the group being tied to violence, but did not confirm an exact reason for the action.

"We apologize for removing the Fallout 76 Groups in error and have since restored the Group and admin accounts," a Facebook spokesperson told Kotaku.

"We are committed to taking action against Groups tied to violence. We have both AI that detects these groups as well as 15,000 human content reviewers, but occasionally Groups are removed in error. If we detect a Group is connected to a dangerous organization, we may remove the Group and associated admin Profiles are disabled."

Facebook said in a September 17 blog post that it was using "proactive detection tools" to seek out any policy-breaking content in both private and public groups.

That content included any communities "tied to violence," including U.S.-based militia organizations, anarchist groups and supporters of QAnon, a political conspiracy theory.

"Even if someone doesn't report an issue to us, our AI can detect potentially violating content and we can remove it," wrote Tom Alison, Facebook's VP of Engineering

"When it comes to groups... we will take an entire group down if it repeatedly breaks our rules or if it was set up with the intent to violate our standards. Over the last year, we took down more than one million groups for violating these policies."

In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded it was an "operational mistake" not to have banned a militia page that was active prior to a deadly outburst of violence that left two people dead and another person injured during a protest in Wisconsin.

Fallout 76
Visitors queue to play the video game 'Fallout 76' developed and published by Bethesda Softworks during the 'Paris Games Week' on October 27, 2018 in Paris, France. A militia role playing group was accidentially banned by Facebook. Chesnot/Getty