Facebook has taken action against at least two events that called for armed, violent responses to the current protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, The Verge reports. Two people have already been killed and another injured in the ongoing protests, which sprung up in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by law enforcement Monday night.
The events in question were created by a self-described militia called the “Kenosha Guard.” The Facebook page for the Kenosha Guard was also disabled this morning.
It’s been posited that the so-called “white vigilante” who allegedly killed both protestors, Kyle Rittenhouse, is part of the militia, but this claim has not been confirmed.
A spokesperson from Facebook told The Verge that the company could not yet comment on the matter. The company did confirm, though, that the Kenosha Guard Facebook page had been removed for violating the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, which was expanded to include militia groups earlier this month.
Before the events were taken down, though, they'd already been seen by thousands. Will Facebook ever get a grip on moderating its platforms?
More than a few vigilantes — This wasn’t just a middling group of basement conspiracy theorists. Before Facebook removed the Kenosha Guard page, the group had racked up more than 3,000 members.
Everyone’s favorite far-right conspiracy site InfoWars had a hand in that recruitment. Because, of course it did. The site had shared a screenshot — which the Kenosha Guard confirmed was real — of the Facebook event listing to its audience. At the time the screenshot was taken, the event, called “Armed Citizens To Protect Our Lives And Property,” had been marked as “interested” by more than 2,300 people.
Encouraging violence — The Kenosha Guard does not want to take responsibility for the two dead protesters. When reached for comment, the group said it was unsure whether or not one of its members had fired on protestors. But it didn’t seem bothered by the murders, either.
“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group said in a statement. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!”
The Kenosha Guard has indeed made explicit calls for armed violence in response to the protests. A Tuesday afternoon post on the Kenosha Guard page read: “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs? No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight.”
Facebook might be complicit — Some of the most pertinent details of this case — namely whether or not Rittenhouse was spurred to action by the Kenosha Guard — are still very, very murky. Even if he wasn’t, though, Facebook allowed this content to exist on its platform long enough to spread.
Facebook probably took the content down once it was made aware of the issue and realized it went directly against its policies. That points to a larger issue, and it’s one we’re seeing with increasing frequency: social media companies simply can’t track harmful posts well enough to remove them before they cause harm.
Things are bad in Kenosha. In response to the shooting of an unarmed Black man, protestors are calling for radical justice — and the local authorities are cheering on an armed militia. We can only hope Facebook and other keepers of the internet continue to minimize the damage done by their platforms in the area.