Zuckerberg: Facebook’s Failure to Remove Militia Page Earlier Was “Operational Error”


Facebook’s content moderation decisions continue to plunge the company into hot water. Angela Lang / CNET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees the social network failed to remove a page created by a militia called the Kenosha Guard before a fatal shooting at a protest in Wisconsin because of a ” operational error ”.

Facebook users informed the company of an event hosted by the Kenosha Guard that issued a “call to arms” ahead of the racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, The Verge reported this week. Users reported the event for inciting violence, but received messages that the content did not violate social network rules. BuzzFeed, which viewed an internal report, said the Kenosha Guard event had been reported to Facebook at least 455 times.

Protests erupted after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police during an arrest on Sunday and became paralyzed. On Tuesday, two demonstrators were shot dead and another person was injured during a demonstration in that city. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old resident of Antioch, Illinois, has been charged with killing the two protesters. He was arrested and charged with intentional first degree homicide and other criminal counts.

Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook made the wrong call by not removing the Kenosha Guard and the event earlier. The page and the event violated new rules the company rolled out last week about “dangerous organizations and individuals,” Zuckerberg told employees in a video posted to his Facebook page on Friday. Under those rules, Facebook would remove accounts, pages and groups formed by organizations and movements that pose a threat to public safety if they discuss potential violence.

Zuckerberg told employees that the team examining dangerous organizations and individuals must understand the “nuances” of how militias and conspiracy theory movements work.

“The contractors and reviewers to whom the initial complaints… were directed… basically did not understand this,” he said.

After reviewing the content, the company removed the Kenosha Guard page on Wednesday after the deadly shooting. Facebook found no evidence that Rittenhouse followed Kenosha’s cover page or that he was invited to the group’s event. But Facebook’s inability to remove the page faster has drawn close scrutiny from civil rights groups and company employees. Facebook employees criticized Zuckerberg’s leadership and questioned whether the company was doing enough to tackle hate speech during an internal virtual meeting on Thursday, BuzzFeed reported.

“When do we take responsibility for allowing hate bile to spill over into our services? An employee reportedly said at the meeting. ” [A]Anti-Semitism, conspiracy and white supremacy stink our services. ”

The backlash from employees shows that dissatisfaction with the company’s content moderation decisions continues to grow. In June, Facebook employees staged a rare virtual walkout and publicly criticized Zuckerberg after the social network left a message from President Donald Trump that he said could incite violence. In the post, Trump wrote “when the looting begins, the shooting begins,” but Facebook determined that the remarks did not violate its rules against incitement to violence. Trump also made the same comments on Twitter, but his tweet was called a violation of the site’s rules against glorifying violence.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told BuzzFeed that the Kenosha shooting was “painful for everyone, especially our black community.”

“The Kenosha Guard event and page violated our new policy on militia organizations and was suppressed for that reason. We launched this policy last week and continue to strengthen our enforcement with a team of specialists from our Dangerous Organizations team, ”she said.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it had removed 790 groups, 100 pages, and 1,500 right-wing ads. conspiracy theory known as QAnon who falsely claims that there is a “deep state” plot against Trump and his supporters. Civil rights groups this year ran a campaign calling on businesses to stop buying ads on Facebook in July, until the social network does more to tackle hate speech.

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