San Francisco (AFP)

Facebook has withdrawn the accounts of the far-right American group Patriot Prayer, which has been involved in violence against anti-racism protesters in Portland for weeks, and one of whose members was shot dead on Saturday.

The pages of this small group were removed from Facebook and Instagram "as part of our ongoing efforts to ban violent militias from our platform," Facebook told AFP on Friday.

In the city of Portland, in the northwest of the United States, demonstrators have protested relentlessly against police brutality since the death of black forty-something George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis in late May.

But supporters of Donald Trump, including members of white supremacist movements like the Proud Boys and the Patriot Prayer, regularly challenge activists in the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter.

A member of the Patriot Prayer was shot and killed on Saturday.

The suspect in this crime, who claimed to be "100% Antifa", died five days later when arrested by federal forces.

The group and its founder, Joey Gibson, have always claimed to be a Christian organization.

Facebook has removed the group's pages in accordance with a recent update to its policy to better stem the spread of movements inciting hatred and violence.

In mid-August, the social media giant banned or imposed restrictions on thousands of far-right accounts, notably linked to the "QAnon" movement, a set of conspiratorial theories propagated mainly by supporters of Donald Trump.

- Mobilization in the street and on the networks -

The mobilization of anti-racism activists and extremist groups raises fears of an explosion of violence as the presidential election approaches, in a country deeply divided, in recession and in difficulty in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Far-left activists have regularly opposed the police for more than three months.

"The far right is exploiting the extremely conflictual political climate, which has become even more uncertain because of the pandemic and the protests for racial justice," said in a report the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors groups in particular extremists, judging the risk of political violence before the elections to be "very real".

Facing the far right is an even more motley coalition that President Trump groups together under the slogan "antifa" (for antifacist) and accuses of being "agitators, anarchists or rioters".

Within it, "there are simple thugs who like to fight and people who really want to fight against white supremacists," judge Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution.

And, according to him, they are "even less organized" than their opponents, which increases the risk of overflows.

Facebook, regularly accused by NGOs and leftist politicians of laxity with movements that incite hatred, has taken many measures to ensure that its platform does not serve as a vehicle for violence.

Its strike against QAnon, militias and also anarchist groups which encourage dangerous interventions, must "restrict their ability to organize," explained the Californian company.

Social networks are increasing the number of pre-emptive measures in the run-up to November 3 - ban on extremist movements, dismantling of disinformation operations, meetings with the authorities, simulation of disaster scenarios, etc. - in order to prepare for possible tensions in the world. waiting for results.

© 2020 AFP