Facebook Apologizes after Saying It Removed Kenosha Militia Event When It Was Actually the Organizer

Facebook falsely claimed responsibility for removing an event page tied to a Kenosha militia following fatal shootings last week, a report claims.

Conflicting with a statement made by the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who credited his own teams with removing the page and its parent account, BuzzFeed News determined the event was in fact removed by the organizers, not Facebook.

The event, called “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property,” was managed by a militia group, Kenosha Guard, and scheduled to take place August 25 in the Wisconsin city facing protests and civil unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

It remained online despite more than 400 complaints by users on the social network, a move later described as an “operational mistake” by Zuckerberg himself.

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On August 25, a 17-year-old who had attended the area while armed opened fire during an encounter with protesters, fatally shooting two people and wounding a third.

One person who flagged the event claimed they were told a review found the posts did not violate Facebook Community Standards on the night of the shooting, despite recent claims from the platform that it would be cracking down on U.S. militia groups.

Addressing Facebook employees on August 27, a video later posted by Zuckerberg, the CEO was heard claiming that his specialist moderators eventually took the lead after contractors who initially handled complaints “basically didn’t pick this up.”

“On second review, doing it more sensitively, the team that’s responsible for dangerous organizations recognized this violated the policies and we took it down,” he said.

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I spoke to Facebook employees at our weekly company Q&A about what’s happening in Kenosha and wanted to share.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, August 28, 2020

Buzzfeed reported the event was deleted the day after the shooting, but by a Kenosha Guard admin. The main account was terminated by Facebook the same day.

Facebook has apologized for the error, which was spread across the world’s media. The social network has been contacted for additional comment by Newsweek.

Spokesperson Liz Bourgeoi told BuzzFeed: “When we responded to questions about our initial investigation into what happened in Kenosha, we believed we’d removed the Event Page for violating our policies. Our investigation found that while we did remove the Kenosha Guard Page, the Event was removed by the organizer.”

According to Zuckerberg, there has been nothing to suggest the shooter was following the Kenosha Guard page or was formally listed as planning to attend the event. He said moderators would seek to remove content found to be supporting the teen.

But in posts on Facebook’s internal forum, known as Workplace, staff have reportedly aired frustrations with the event’s handling, coming after the platform was criticized by employees for failing to address controversial racial rhetoric by Donald Trump.

“I’m not sure why our external and internal comms have claim[ed] that we removed the Kenosha Guard event,” one staff member wrote on Workplace, BuzzFeed reported. “This is not true: the event was user deleted hours before we disabled the owning page. I’m not sure where the mixup happened, but this is a pretty important distinction.”

On August 19, Facebook unveiled a policy pledging to take action on any “accounts tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, U.S.-based militia organizations and QAnon,” including pages, groups and also Instagram profiles.

Mark Zuckerberg
A screenshot of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, taken from a video address to employees posted to his personal account on August 28, 2020.

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