Facebook has designated the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as a “mass murder” and removed the suspect’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Two people were killed and one injured Tuesday night after an event touting a “call to arms” against Black Lives Matter protests circulated on the platform.
“We’ve designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram,” a company spokesperson told Digital Trends in a statement. “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.”
A Facebook group called Kenosha Guard posted an event listing Tuesday afternoon calling on its followers to “take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs” as protests rocked the city for the third night in a row. According to The Verge, the event was also promoted by InfoWars.
Since Sunday, activists and residents in Kenosha have been protesting the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake nightly, even setting fire to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections building. Blake was shot seven times by an officer after Blake tried to de-escalate a fight between two women. He is currently hospitalized and in stable condition.
On Tuesday night, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse could be seen in videos posted to social media carrying a rifle and associating with other armed groups, before firing into a group of protestors. Rittenhouse also gave an interview with The Daily Caller the same night, saying it is his job to “protect people.” He has since been arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection to the shooting, which left two dead and one injured.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends on Wednesday that the Kenosha Guard page was taken down for violating its “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy regarding militia organizations — and that it is working to identify and remove supplemental content and accounts related to the shooting Tuesday night. The company said it will continue to remove content praising the shooting and will prohibit copycat accounts in the shooter’s name from surfacing.
Facebook has faced increased criticism in recent weeks over its handling of violent extremism and hate speech on its platform that led to real-world violence. Last week, the company introduced a new policy aimed at moderating groups and restricting content inciting and glorifying violence, removing thousands of accounts associated with the far-right conspiracy group QAnon.
However, Tuesday night’s shooting may be an indication that Facebook’s newest policy lacks real-world results. According to reporting from The Verge, two Facebook users reported the Kenosha Guard group before Tuesday’s protest and were told it did not violate the platform’s policies.
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