Two users flagged a militia group's page for inciting violence in Wisconsin, but Facebook did not take the page down until after two people were killed Tuesday night.
There is no evidence that Facebook prompted the now-infamous 17-year-old gunman Kyle Rittenhouse to cross a state line with an AR-15 he was not old enough to own, and allegedly kill two protesters while injuring a third in the Jacob Blake demonstrations. We do now know, though, that hours before the shootings, there was a Facebook page called Kenosha Guard that The Verge reports was home to posts like “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” According to a Facebook statement, Rittenhouse was not a member of the Kenosha Guard group.
But further reporting from The Verge shows that at least two users flagged the the Kenosha Guard event page for review. The group Kenosha Guard had posted a Tuesday night event called Armed Citizens to Protect Our Lives and Property — which was promoted by Infowars — which two Facebook users reported, only to receive the standard response message that “The event was reviewed” and “it doesn't’ go against one of out specific Community Standards.”
One of the users who reported the events told The Verge that the event page was full of comments calling for violent activity, and that same user reported a specific comment about putting nails in protesters’ automobile tires. “There were lots of comments like that in the event,” the person told The Verge. “People talking about being ‘locked and loaded.’ People asking what types of weapons and people responding [with] ‘bring everything.’”
(Those comments could not be verified, as the page had been removed.)
Facebook did remove a number of militia sites last week according to the Guardian, and since the Tuesday night shooting, it did remove Rittenhouse’s accounts on both the Facebook and Instagram platforms. “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 company said in a statement to Recode. “However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis.”
Scoop: Facebook has blocked searches for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse following a deluge of posts praising his actions. The video of Tucker Carlson defending Rittenhouse, however, can still be found on the platform. https://t.co/42yqEBDAGp— joyce carol foot (@ejdickson) August 27, 2020
Certainly any mistake Facebook may have made here is not as bad as, you know, shooting someone in the back seven times in front of their family, which the Wisconsin Department of Justice acknowledges the Kenosha, Wisconsin police did. And other social sites are struggling with Kenosha fallout too; GoFundMe has removed a fundraiser for Rittenhouse, and a Twitter search on “Kenosha” will currently show you all manner of conspiracy theories that the three shooting victims were child molesters and sex offenders. But Facebook is the biggest and most profitable social site, and is still struggling to come to terms with how a $300 stock price and $760 billion valuation come with some degree of social responsibility.
Image: Kyle Rittenhouse via TikTok, via CNN