Contrary to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s claims, it wasn’t the company’s content moderation team that took down the event listing of a group that had called for violence in the US, but it was the group’s admin who did so, reported Buzzfeed News on Thursday. The report refutes claims made by Facebook just days after a fatal shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin when the company was facing a PR nightmare for reportedly failing to act on time and delete hate speech against Black Lives Matter protestors.
The group Facebook group being referred to is that of the Kenosha Guard, which listed an event calling for violence ahead of BLM protests in Wisconsin, USA. The night the event was scheduled, two protestors were shot dead by a 17-year-old vigilante. Kenosha Guard’s group’s page and the event were taken down from Facebook the by next morning. Zuckerberg had later claimed that this was done by a special team of experts tasked with enforcing Facebook’s new policy on militia organisations.
Background: The Black Lives Matter protests were a reaction to the shooting of Jacob S. Blake, an African-American man, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23. 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.
Kenosha Guard issues “call to arms”: Amid ongoing protests, on the morning of August 25, Kenosha Guard, a self-described militia group called listed an event on its Facebook page, calling for members to arm themselves and “protect their lives and property”. The same night, a 17-year-old male opened fire at a group of protestors, killing two.
Facebook didn’t take down group, despite many users reporting it: The next morning, Facebook said it had taken down both the Kenosha Guards’ page and event off of its platform. The Verge and Buzzfeed News, however, reported that the page and event had been reported several times before the fatal shooting took place, but Facebook’s content moderators refused to take it down. According to Buzzfeed News’ report, the event itself was reported 455 times that day.
Zuckerberg admits to mistake: Later, in a statement to employees, Zuckerberg admitted that there had been a delay in taking down the content. He said it was because the special team of experts which is responsible for enforcing its newly-expanded policy for dangerous organisations such as militia groups. He added that once this team looked into the event and page, Facebook took them down immediately.
But Facebook only took down the page, not the event: Internal company discussions, reported Buzzfeed News, revealed that the even was actually deleted by one of Kenosha Guard’s page’s administrators, not by Facebook. Later that day, Facebook removed the page. Later, Facebook admitted to the publication that this was indeed true, and “apologised for the error”. “Our investigation found that while we did remove the Kenosha Guard Page, the Event was removed by the organizer,” the spokesperson said.
According to messages posted by Facebook employees on an internal communication forum, some Facebook employees indeed knew that it wasn’t the company that took down the event listing. One employee reportedly said the event was deleted hours before Facebook disabled the page. The employee also questioned why Facebook communications team was trying to claim otherwise, and said it was important to find out where the “mix up” had happened.
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