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Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook made ‘operational mistake’ before Kenosha shooting

After days of increased scrutiny over whether or not Facebook did enough to quell content capable of inciting real-world violence before a shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that left two people dead, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a video Friday addressing the criticism, saying the platform made an “operational mistake.”

A since-deleted Facebook militia group called Kenosha Guard posted an event listing on Facebook on Tuesday night calling on its followers to “take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs” following back-to-back Black Lives Matter protests in the city after the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.

The same night the Facebook event began circulating, 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 protesters during a confrontation . Rittenhouse has since been arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

“This image and juxtaposition of seeing Jacob Blake kind of facing away from the police and being shot, next to these images of this white kid with a long gun strapped to his body, walking by the police with nothing happening, I think kind of symbolizes what we all feel is wrong and unjust, and how much progress still needs to be made,” said Zuckerberg in the video posted to his Facebook page Friday. “There is a sense that things are not improving at the pace that they should be.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, addresses Kenosha shooting
Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

After Tuesday night’s shooting, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends that the Kenosha Guard page and event listing was removed Wednesday for violating its newly enacted “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy. Facebook also designated the shooting as a “mass murder.”

Zuckerberg reiterated the results of the company’s internal investigation Friday, and said the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram profiles have since been removed, and any content depicting praise of the shooter or the shooting would be prohibited.

Zuckerberg said the company found no evidence of premeditation or “suggestion that he was going to do this ahead of time” — meaning, Rittenhouse was not invited to the event inciting violence, nor was a part of it. However, it is possible for Facebook users to be aware of groups, pages, and events without liking or RSVPing to them.

Two Facebook users reported the Kenosha Guard Facebook group before the shooting occurred, and were told the page did not violate the company’s policies, according to The Verge. Facebook has since walked back the decision, shifting blame to its large network of third-party content moderators for not being educated in deciphering certain innuendos and symbolism used in militia-style Facebook groups.

“The reason for this was largely an operational mistake,” Zuckerberg said, addressing recent public concern as to why the page was not taken down sooner. “The contractors and the reviewers who the reports were first funneled to basically didn’t pick this up.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook has now enacted a warning screen on imagery involving the shooting, and is actively taking down praise for the shooter and the shooting. Yet, several reports have documented promoted content circulating throughout the platform doing just that — praising the shooter and the shooting in an effort to stoke polarization among political lines.

Zuckerberg ended his seven-minute-long statement by saying Facebook is going to evolve its policies and execution of its content moderation efforts, instead of accepting any real involvement in how the platform can incite real-world violence.

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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