Kenosha Militia Issued 'Call to Arms' But Facebook Did Nothing

Facebook repeatedly failed to take action against a self-proclaimed militia group called Kenosha Guard, which sent out a "call to arms" ahead of the shooting of three people—two of whom died—at this week's protest in Wisconsin, according to media reports.

The Kenosha Guard Facebook page was eventually taken down on Wednesday morning, hours after 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse allegedly shot two people dead and seriously injured a third during an altercation amid protests against the shooting of black man Jacob Blake by Kenosha police on Sunday.

Rittenhouse was arrested Wednesday at his home in Antioch, Illinois, and has been charged with homicide and other offenses. There is no evidence linking him to the Kenosha Guard or its Facebook event.

Reports by The Verge and BuzzFeed News indicate that the tech giant had already been warned that the page and its associated event relating to the Kenosha protests had the potential to incite violence, given it was urging people to take to the streets with firearms.

BuzzFeed News obtained an internal report showing that the "call to arms" event on the Kenosha Guard page was the subject of at least 455 complaints since its creation, but was cleared by four moderators who all deemed it "non-violating."

One unidentified worker wrote in the internal "Violence and Incitement Working Group" report that the page accounted for "66 percent of all event reports that day," BuzzFeed reported. The next highest-flagged event had 18 complaints on the same day, the news website said.

One Facebook user who did not want to be named told The Verge she had reported the event as well as specific comments posted on the page, for example one urging users to put nails in the tires of protesters' cars.

"There were lots of comments like that in the event," she said. "People talking about being 'locked and loaded.' People asking what types of weapons and people responding to 'bring everything.'"

Another user whose complaint was rebuffed by Facebook moderators told The Verge: "I felt it had the possibility to end in violence, and it did." It is not possible to verify users' concerns because the event page and the militia's profile have been removed from Facebook.

The internal Facebook reported seen by BuzzFeed said some complaints had been "handled by automation." The employee writing the report suggested a new system in which spikes in feedback on events automatically "trigger investigation immediately given this has proved to be a good signal for imminent harm."

Facebook told The Verge its investigation had found no direct link between the Kenosha Guard event page and Tuesday's deadly shooting. We've designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter's accounts from Facebook and Instagram," a representative told the website.

"At this time, we have not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized. However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis."

A Facebook worker wrote in the report that the investigation "provides more details around what happened and changes we are making to detect and investigate similar events sooner... This is a sobering reminder of the importance of the work we do, especially during this charged period."

On Thursday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a company-wide meeting that the Kenosha Guard event page remained live due to "an operational mistake."

Zuckerberg said the events in Kenosha were "painful and really discouraging," and acknowledging that the Facebook should have been quicker to take down the militia's pages.

Kenosha, Guard, militia, Facebook, page, complaints, shooting
A small group of demonstrators are pictured protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake on August 28, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty