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Facebook has 'blood on its hands' over Kenosha shooting, rights group says

Muslim Advocates says at least two people warned social media giant about militia group's 'call to arms' before protest
The police shooting of Jacob Blake triggered widespread protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Police shooting of Jacob Blake triggered widespread protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

A Muslim civil rights organisation accused Facebook of having "blood on its hands" after a militia group reportedly used the social media platform to issue a "call to arms" for a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that resulted in the deaths of two people. 

On Tuesday, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old, killed two people and seriously wounded another during a protest after the weekend police shooting of African American Jacob Blake.

Muslim Advocates said in a statement on Thursday that the gunman had "answered a call" from the Facebook page of Kenosha Guard, a militia group that has now had its account suspended.

Citing the website The Verge, Muslim Advocates said that at least two people had warned Facebook regarding the militia groups' page, but the company had failed to take any action.

'The horror in Kenosha shows us the deadly consequences of Facebook's deliberate inaction'

Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates

Facebook has said that the company's investigation produced no direct links between the shooting and the Kenosha Guard accounts.

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"We've designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter's accounts from Facebook and Instagram," a Facebook representative said.

"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."

Still, Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates' special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry, said in the statement that "Facebook has blood on its hands."

"For years, Muslim Advocates has repeatedly warned Facebook that its event pages were being used by militias and hate groups to organise violence and threaten people. And for years, Facebook has failed to stop it.

"The horror in Kenosha shows us the deadly consequences of Facebook's deliberate inaction."

'Chose to look the other way'

Rittenhouse, a fan of President Donald Trump and Blue Lives Matter, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide on Wednesday after allegedly shooting and killling Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, during Tuesday's protest of Blake's shooting.

Blake, who was shot seven times at point-blank range by a police officer, is now paralysed and suffering from other injuries, according to family attorneys.

The shooting triggered widespread protests in Kenosha, as well as boycotts from several American sports teams. It has also furthered calls for systemic change within the policing system, in addition to calls to defund and abolish the police.

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Ahussain said that if Facebook had taken down the event page, the deaths may have been prevented, but it "chose to look the other way yet again".

"Before any more people are threatened by armed bigots and any more lives are lost, Facebook must finally take responsibility for the horror it continues to enable and stop militias and hate groups from using its platforms to organize hate."

Muslim Advocates has long accused Facebook of being complacent in combatting hate groups on its platform.

"For more than five years, Muslim Advocates has repeatedly warned top Facebook officials, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, that the company's event pages were being used as an organising tool for hate groups," the organisation said.

"To date, Facebook has yet to enact a policy that would stop their event pages from being used as organising tools for white nationalist, anti-Muslim groups. And, as a result, lives have been lost."

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