Facebook failed to remove pages urging Kenosha violence before shootings, despite 400+ reports: lawsuit

'It was largely an operational mistake,' Mark Zuckerberg said in a video shared to the site

Facebook has been accused of “shirking” its responsibility to remove pages and accounts belonging to those who coordinated and recruited others for what resulted in deadly shootings in Kenosha, Wis., at the end of August, a recently filed federal lawsuit states.

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The Mark Zuckerberg-owned social media giant failed to suspend accounts and events that were created through the site, such as the “Boogaloo Bois” and “Kenosha Guard” pages, despite receiving more than 400 reports in some cases, according to the suit.

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“Facebook, where most of the conspiring took place, failed to act to prevent this harm to plaintiffs and other protestors,” the lawsuit states. “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 pages from its site until after several deaths, injuries and extensive harassment occurred.”

Approximately 66% of the Facebook events reported to website administrators that day were regarding the Kenosha Guard’s event page, the suit states.

In addition to Facebook, the lawsuit names Kyle Rittenhouse, the gunman accused of fatally gunning down two people and wounding a third during a night of protests in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. It also identifies “Boogaloo Bois,” “Kenosha Guard,” which have since been removed, and two other people as defendants.

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backwards cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis. on Aug. 25, 2020. (Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via AP, File)

The complaint was filed on Tuesday in the Eastern District of Washington, by four people, including the “life partner” of Anthony Huber, one of the men whom Rittenhouse allegedly killed.

The lawsuit describes how the defendants, through Facebook, made plans and pages, such as the “Call to Arms” created by Kenosha Guard on Aug. 24, which scheduled an event for the next day.

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“The Call to Arms was immediately ratified with violent rhetoric by Kenosha Guard members, with comments such as ‘leave a pile of them and burn the bodies’ and ‘shoot to kill,’” the complaint states. The next day, Kenosha Guard announced its arrival.

Over the course of the evening, “members posted encouragement with phrases such as ‘give them hell’ and ‘shoot to kill,’” the lawsuit continues. “Other members advised to ‘use hollow points, they expand on contact.’”

Members of the Boogaloo Bois allegedly joined them later in the night.

A man on the ground was shot in the chest as clashes between protesters and armed civilians who protect the streets of Kenosha against the arson during the third day of protests over the shooting of a black man Jacob Blake by police officer in Wiscon

Rittenhouse, 17, remains in an Illinois jail, where he has been held since he was arrested days after the Aug. 25 shooting. Wisconsin allows gun owners to openly carry in public, but a person under 18 can’t legally possess or carry a firearm unless that person is hunting or target-practicing with an adult or in the military.

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The teen had told the conservative news outlet the Daily Caller earlier that day that he was in Kenosha to guard a business and to help if people got hurt, bringing a first-aid kit and his rifle.

Hours later, he allegedly shot and killed two people –­­ Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum –­­ and wounded a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, in a series of encounters that snowballed after Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, according to a court complaint.

Rittenhouse later turned himself in, his lawyers said, and is now jailed on homicide charges. His extradition hearing, which was initially scheduled for the end of August, was postponed and scheduled for Sept. 25.

One of the teen's attorneys, Lin Wood, told FOX Business the lawsuit as it pertains to his client “is errant nonsense.”

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“But it may provide a golden opportunity for obtaining documents and sworn testimony from Facebook to bolster Kyle’s future defamation case against Facebook for falsely accusing him of mass murder,” Wood said in an emailed statement. “Thus, I view the lawsuit as a blessing in disguise. I want to change the name of Facebook to Kyle’s Book.”

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg admitted at the end of August that Facebook made a mistake in not removing Kenosha Guard’s page, despite that it violated Facebook’s policies and had been flagged by “a bunch of people.”

“It was largely an operational mistake,” Zuckerberg said in a video shared to the site. “The contractors, the reviewers, who the initial complaints were funneled to, didn’t, basically didn’t pick this up.”

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Zuckerberg did not apologize for the error and said that so far, Facebook hasn’t found any evidence that Rittenhouse was aware of the Kenosha Guard page or the invitation it posted for armed militia members to go to Kenosha.

A company spokesperson told FOX Business Facebook removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and took action against organizations and content related to Kenosha.

The spokesperson also reiterated Zuckerberg's claim, saying they "have found no evidence that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the Event Page they organized."

“Though it labeled Defendant Rittenhouse’s actions as a ‘mass murder,’ Facebook claimed there were no direct links between his accounts and the Kenosha Guard page,” the lawsuit states, specifically addressing Zuckerberg’s comments. “However, common sense – and, likely, further discovery – counsels that Rittenhouse would not have known about or traveled to Kenosha but for the Call to Arms having been widely publicized.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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