Aug 27, 2020 - Technology

Facebook criticized for slow action against Kenosha militia page

A man stands in the night in a helmet holding a rifle
An armed civilian stands in the streets of Kenosha during third day of protests over a police shooting. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After initially taking no action on militia pages organizing an armed counter-protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Facebook said Wednesday that the pages and related comments violate a just-enacted policy that imposes stricter limits on QAnon, militia and other extremist groups.

Why it matters: Facebook's handling of the issue raises fresh question about its ability and willingness to enforce policies in time to prevent violence rather than after the fact.

Driving the news:

  • As first reported by The Verge on Wednesday, Facebook received complaints about a group called Kenosha Guard, which encouraged "a call to arms" and comments urged supporters to come "locked and loaded." Their event was a reaction to widespread protests in the city after police shot Jacob Blake.
  • Facebook initially took no action on complaints about the page and specific comments, but then took down the group on Wednesday, saying that a more thorough review found it had violated the new policy.
  • As is standard after a mass shooting, Facebook also took down pages belonging to the accused shooter.

Between the lines: The issue is complicated by a number of factors, including the fact that the militia policy was only put in place last week.

What they're saying: Facebook notes that the small team focused on this issue did not review the initial complaints about the group and that it has yet to find evidence the shooter saw or was motivated by the Facebook group's posting.

  • "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. "However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis.”

Color of Change, meanwhile, blasted Facebook in a statement, saying that far-right militia and white nationalist groups continue to organize, communicate and recruit new members on the social network.

  • "We have long warned that Facebook’s cultivation of white supremacy and hate groups on its platform is a deadly threat to Black Americans and our allies," Color of Change president Rashad Robinson said.
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