Facebook knew about militia group before US shooting but still chose not to take action
- Facebook was warned about the violent intentions of the "Kenosha Guard" militia group, but initially refused to take action, The Verge reported Wednesday.
- Facebook eventually removed the group and a counter-protest event it had organised — several hours after two protesters were shot and killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night.
- But according to The Verge, multiple users had alerted Facebook to both the group and the event before the shooting, yet Facebook's moderators ruled that the pages didn't violate its policies.
- Facebook said it removed the page and event for violating its anti-militia policy, but didn't say why the initial reports didn't trigger any removals.
- Despite claims that it is cracking down on violent and hate speech groups, Facebook has still struggled to prevent them from using its platform to spread and organise.
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A self-described militia group in Kenosha, Wisconsin, used Facebook to organise a "call to arms" event hours before two people were shot and killed during protests Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, hours after the shootings, Facebook removed the Kenosha Guard group as well as the event it organized, where it urged people to "take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs."
But a new report from The Verge on Wednesday revealed that Facebook had been warned multiple times about the group's violent intentions ahead of the previous evening's shootings.
At least two users reported Kenosha Guard, which had about 3,000 members, and the event where it aimed to organize armed counterprotesters — alerting Facebook moderators on Tuesday that the pages contained posts likely to incite violence, according to The Verge.
In both cases, according to the report, Facebook determined that neither the group, its "call to arms" event, nor specific posts — which included threats to stick nails in the tires of protesters' cars and discussion of which weapons to bring — violated its policies.
Facebook had previously banned content explicitly calling for violence, but introduced a new policy last week targeting "movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior."
The policy, which specifically calls out accounts and pages "tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests," says Facebook will continue to let people post content supporting such groups but will take a variety of actions to either remove or limit the groups' spread.
"The Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis," a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider, without answering questions about why the comments reported by users Tuesday didn't violate that same policy.
"At this time, we have not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized," the spokesperson said, adding that Facebook has designated the incident as a mass shooting and is taking a variety of steps to remove content praising or supporting the shooter or his actions and is working with law enforcement on the matter.
Facebook recently announced several crackdowns on groups promoting violence, white supremacy, and conspiracies as pressure has mounted on the social media giant to curb toxic and dangerous content on its platform. But many of the groups have already used Facebook to recruit millions of members and reach even more people with their content, and critics say the company has waited too long to take action.
Despite the purported crackdowns, Facebook has continued to struggle to stamp out such groups, and recent reports have found that Facebook has long been aware that its powerful recommendation algorithm encourages extremist and polarizing content but that executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg have ignored the issue.
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