Facebook takes down militia group that organized armed response to protests

The takedowns come after two protestors were shot and killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Facebook has removed the page for a Kenosha, Wisconsin militia group after it organized a “call to arms” event as a response to protestors demonstrating against the police shooting of Jacob Blake Jr.

According to screenshots shared by The Verge, a militia group called “Kenosha Guard” hosted a Facebook event called “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property,” while the group’s page invited “patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs.”

Facebook’s takedowns come after two protestors were shot and killed Tuesday night by “a young White man carrying a rifle,” according to The Washington Post. It’s not clear if the shooter was part of the “Kenosha Guard” group. A 17-year-old has been taken into custody in connection with the shooting and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, CNN reports.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company is investigating the incident. The social network announced last week that it would remove accounts and groups that discuss violence, including “militia organizations” as an expansion of its “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.” The crackdown resulted in the removal of hundreds of groups, pages and ads linked to militia groups and “those encouraging riots,” Facebook said at the time.

The latest removals aren’t the first time the company has cracked down on extremist groups linked to violence after a deadly shooting. The company banned “boogaloo” groups in June, after one supporter was charged with murdering a California security guard and sheriff’s deputy.

Update 8/26 5:55pm ET: In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the company had designated the shooting as a “mass murder,” and confirmed that it had removed accounts associated with the shooter, as well as pages for the Kenosha Guard group and its event.

"We’ve designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram,” the spokesperson 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. However, the Kenosha Guard Page and their Event Page violated our new policy addressing militia organizations and have been removed on that basis.”