A group of die-hard Fallout 76 fans logged on one day to find that their usual stomping grounds had been suspended from Facebook — again. It’s crucial that communities built around online games have a place to gather, organize, and coordinate outside of the game itself, but the Free States Militia is finding that’s harder than they ever could have realized.
The Free States Militia is a popular and sociable group in Fallout 76, whose members take part in the game’s grand role-play wars and social events. They’ve been removed from Facebook twice by the platform’s moderation system. Without adequate communication from Facebook, the Free States players have assumed that their recent suspension is tied to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
The Free States are an actual faction in Fallout 76. After the nuclear war and fall of American civilization, the Free States banded together to keep an independent presence in Appalachia, free of the tyranny of factions like the Enclave or the Brotherhood of Steel.
The Big Boss of the Free States council, who plays under the handle Non_Serviam79, spoke to Polygon over DMs about the unique problem the group faces.
Non_Serviam79, whose real name is Bobby, chose to stay on Facebook after the first moderation issue in October of 2020. “Facebook is unfortunately the easiest platform to reach thousands of people at once, and we will no longer have that asset,” he notes. The Free States Militia was in the middle of a big give-away with other role-play groups, and now they have no way to promote that.
Their Twitter page, by comparison, has just over 440 followers. “We will be moving to Discord, and our team is designing it as we speak,” says Bobby. While Discord is an excellent chat client, it lacks promotional and networking features that role-play groups have come to rely on with Facebook.
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.— FSM Playstation Video Game Club (@Free_StatesMil) January 12, 2021
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/3baIHnkA8r
The Free States Militia has not been given a full explanation for the suspension, nor have they been able to speak to a human being at Facebook about it. Bobby provided a screenshot of the shutdown, which reads: “You can’t comment until Feb 7. You have posted things that don’t follow our Community Standards more than once.”
Facebook has policies against “violence and criminal behavior,” which includes incitement, discussions of public harm, and “organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence.” Bobby denies that the Free States Militia violated these policies.
“The Facebook page is 100% Fallout related,” says Bobby. “I’d say 90% of the page is lore. We write our stories in line with 76’s Free States Militia faction. 5% is group events, and 5% are in-game photos. [We write] about our individual characters and their adventures in the wasteland.”
The Free States Militia has tried to keep things friendly for Facebook. “At first we figured the word ‘militia’ was the issue,” Bobby says. The group tried scrambling the word with special characters, with combinations like m![[!+!@. The group also used a shorter phrase: just Free States. On Twitter, they identify themselves as the FSM Playstation Video Game Club. But that didn’t protect them from Facebook’s algorithm. It’s been a frustrating hurdle for gamers just trying to have fun.
“Adult games have adult themes. There will be bleed over from reality into fiction as a result,” says Bobby. “Banning words such as ‘gun,’ ‘acid,’ or ‘militia’ only serves to make people feel as though they are helping. But in reality, they are only making things worse.”