Sep 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

People hurt in the Kenosha protests are suing Facebook

Illustration of the facebook like icon holding a protest sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Four people affected by the violence during the Kenosha, Wisc., protests in August are suing Facebook, charging that the social media company enabled violence to take hold there.

Driving the news: As BuzzFeed News reports, the allegations against Facebook focus on its failure to remove an event titled “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property,” created by the self-described militia group the Kenosha Guard. The page was filled with violent comments including posts celebrating the deaths at the protests.

  • The plaintiffs in this case are Hannah Gittings, whose partner was killed in the Kenosha protests; Christopher McNeal, a Black resident of Kenosha; Nathan Peet, a Kenosha resident who assisted one of Rittenhouse's alleged victims; and Carmen Palmer, a Milwaukee resident who went to march against racial injustice with her children and church group.
  • Kenosha Guard had ties to Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who is now charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count each of attempted homicide, recklessly endangering the safety of two people, and possessing a weapon while under the age of 18.
  • The complaint says the four plaintiffs were “terrorized, assaulted, harassed, and placed in so much fear when facing the business end of military grade assault rifles that they determined it was too dangerous to continue to protest.”

What they're saying: “Despite over 400 reports of the Kenosha Guard’s event page and its call to arms, as well as the violent rhetoric throughout, Facebook failed to remove the page from its site until after several deaths, injuries, and extensive harassment occurred," the suit says.

  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s failure to remove the event page was “an operational mistake.”
  • Facebook also announced that Rittenhouse did not RSVP to the Kenosha Guard’s event and did not follow its page, so there's no evidence that he was tied to the event.
  • According to BuzzFeed, the "Kenosha suit also attempts to pierce the broad protections afforded to platforms like Facebook for user-generated content under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act."
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