Zuckerberg says Facebook's failure to remove militia page an 'operational mistake'

by Reuters
Saturday, 29 August 2020 07:36 GMT

A member of the Wisconsin National Guard stands by as people gather for a vigil, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S., August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Image Caption and Rights Information

Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg said contractors and reviewers missed complaints from "a bunch of people" about a call to arms posted online by a Kenosha militia group

Aug 28 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc made an "operational mistake" in not acting sooner to remove a page for a militia group that posted a call to arms in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the company's Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

The social media company said on Wednesday it had removed the page for the Kenosha Guard, and an event listing there for Armed Citizens to Protect Our Lives and Property as it violated the company's policy against "militia organizations".

Facebook's action came after two people were shot and killed during protests in the town on Tuesday night, part of three nights of civil unrest that followed the shooting by a white police officer that left a Black man, Jacob Blake Jr, paralyzed.

Zuckerberg, speaking in a video message published on his Facebook profile, acknowledged the company had received complaints from "a bunch of people" about the Kenosha Guard posting.

"The contractors and reviewers who the initial complaints were funneled to basically didn't pick this up," he said. "And on second review, doing it more sensitively, the team that's responsible for dangerous organizations recognized that this violated the policies and we took it down."

Zuckerberg said the company had not found any evidence to show that the person charged with the fatal shooting during Tuesday's unrest followed the Kenosha Guard page.

News website BuzzFeed quoted an internal Facebook report as showing the event associated with the Kenosha Guard was flagged at least 455 times, and a Facebook worker as saying it accounted for 66% of all event reports that day.

Facebook declined to comment on those finding, Buzzfeed said.

Facebook said it would continue to evolve its policies for identifying potentially dangerous organizations.

"This is a new policy we launched last week and we're still scaling up our enforcement of it by a team of specialists," a spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Katie Paul and by Mrinalika Roy and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and John Stonestreet)

We want to hear from you: what critical stories and perspectives are missing from our coverage of systemic racism around the world?

Your responses to our short survey will help shape our reporting.

You can submit your response anonymously. If you provide an email address, we may follow up with you for more information. Any information you share with us will remain strictly confidential and will be used only in accordance with our Privacy Statement.