Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the company had made a “mistake” last week by not removing a page and event that had called for violence ahead of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in Wisconsin, USA. In a video posted on his official Facebook profile, he said that many people had reported the page, and that the decision to not remove it was “largely an operational mistake”. The page Zuckerberg was referring to belonged to the “Kenosha Guard”, a self-described militia group, which had issued a “call to arms” before the BLM protests were held in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Shooting of Jacob Blake: The protests were a reaction to an officer of Kenosha’s police department shooting Jacob S. Blake, an African-American man. The officer was called to the location to investigate a domestic disturbance incident. He shot Blake multiple times in the back when the latter was trying to enter his car to check on his children.
Two protestors shot dead: The following week saw major protests happen in Kenosha, which were part of the larger Black Lives Movement. On last Tuesday, far-right group Kenosha Guard listed an event on its Facebook page. It called for members to arm themselves and “protect their lives and property”. That night, a 17-year-old male opened fire into a group of anti-racism protestors, killing two of them. Kenosha Guard’s Facebook page was taken down only the next morning.
Kenosha Guard page and event were reported by ‘a bunch of people’
Before being taken down, the Kenosha Guard page was reported by multiple users — or “a bunch of people”, as put by Zuckerberg in his video. The Verge had reported that at least two users had reported the page and event, but were told they did not violate Facebook’s policies and hence were allowed to stay up.
Subsequently, Buzzfeed News reported that the numbers of users who reported the page or event was much higher. Quoting from an internal report, Buzzfeed News found that the Kenosha Guard event had been reported as many as 455 times. An employee reportedly wrote in the company’s internal “Violence and Incitement Working Group” that it made up 66% of all event reports made that day.
The ‘operational mistake’: Delay in enforcement of new policy on Dangerous Organisations
Zuckerberg said that the Kenosha Guard page had indeed violated Facebook’s new policy on “Dangerous Individuals and Organisations” that was announced earlier this month. He explained that the team that was enforcing this policy was a specialised one, which is trained to look for symbolism, innuendo and other nuances of how militias, dangerous organisations operate.
According to Zuckerberg’s account, there was a delay in the enforcement of this new policy. “The reviewers, the contractors, who the initial complaints were funnelled to basically didn’t pick this up. On second review, when the team responsible for dangerous organisations recognised that this violated the policies, we took it down,” he said.
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