Facebook users reported Wisconsin militia group before protest shooting

Facebook initially said the group's event didn't break its rules.

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A Facebook event organized by a militia group that advocated for members to “take up arms” in response to protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin was reported to Facebook by multiple users who were told it didn’t violate the company’s policies.

The company removed the event page and the “Kenosha Guard” Facebook group on Wednesday after two protestors were shot and killed Tuesday night. A 17-year-old was charged with first-degree murder.

Facebook said in a statement that it had “no evidence,” the teen was part of the Kenosha Guard Facebook group or its event. But the company had the opportunity to take action on the militia group’s Facebook event before the deadly shooting, according to users.

One Kenosha resident named Nathan, who asked to use his first name only, told Engadget he reported the event page for the Kenosha Guard on Tuesday afternoon. “I was nervous about them taking up arms against protestors in Kenosha,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I could classify it as a hate crime or violence but Facebook only gives you one option so I chose violence.”

An hour later, he received a response from Facebook: “The event was reviewed and though it doesn’t go against one of our specific Community Standards, we understand the event or something shared on it may still be offensive to you.”

Facebook users who reported the Kenosha Guard's event were told it didn't break the company's rules.

He wasn’t the only one to report the event and receive such a response. The screenshot matches another posted to Twitter, and one shared by The Verge, which reported “at least two” people had reported the event prior to the shooting on Tuesday night.

Following news reports of the shooting and militia groups’ involvement at the protests, Facebook confirmed the group had broken its rules, which were updated last week to address militia organizations and supporters of QAnon. Under the latest policy, Facebook says it will remove pages and groups associated with these movements if they call for violence.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the company had designated the shooting as a “mass murder,” and removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The company also confirmed it had taken down the Kenosha Guard group and the event page.

“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.”

Facebook’s statement didn’t address why the company didn’t act on the reports from users if the Kenosha Guard event did in fact violate its rules. But the company has been criticized in the past for uneven enforcement of its community standards. A civil rights audit of the company’s policies, released earlier this year, warned of the dangers of extremism on its platform.