Stop us if you’ve heard this one before – or not because you have absolutely heard this one before – but Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is sorry he helped make society a little worse.
The antisocial network’s chief exec has shared a video to say how upset he is that Facebook’s content checkers failed to remove from the platform a violent militia group calling itself the Kenosha Guard. Zuckerberg said the US-based militia’s call-to-arms posted on the site had slipped past Facebook’s first level of checks, and that the group’s page has now been taken down albeit after two people lost their lives.
The Wisconsin city of Kenosha has been rocked by protests after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times on Sunday by police trying to arrest him after officers were called out to what was described as a “domestic incident.” Blake’s attorney claimed his client was trying to deescalate an argument between two people.
Blake also had a warrant out on him for allegedly breaking into a home in May and sexually assaulting a woman in her bedroom then leaving with her car. His accuser later waived a temporary restraining order against him, CNN reported.
It is not clear whether the officers called out on that Sunday were aware of the warrant. Outside a home in Kenosha, Blake was confronted by the cops, he was tased, and as he tried to get into his car, an officer opened fire, ultimately paralyzing the father. His three children were on the backseat of the vehicle. The police claimed Blake fought officers and had a knife on him, and that one was was found in his car. However, it is unproven whether Blake brandished a weapon: a witness who recorded cellphone footage of the encounter said the man was unarmed and non-violent.
Anti-police protests and riots followed in Kenosha and elsewhere.
Amid this unrest, of which the shooting was a clear catalyst, a call to arms was posted on Facebook by the so-called Kenosha Guard on Tuesday.
“Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” it read, referring to the protesters. “No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight.”
That night a teen gunman crossed state borders tooled up with a rifle, a med pack, and latex gloves to reach Kenosha, shooting two people dead and injuring another during the protests. A 17-year-old was later arrested and charged with multiple first-degree murders.
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The whole affair, and its handling by the cops, has drawn the attention of groups as wide-ranging as the NBA and Major League Baseball, which called off games in protest.
According to Buzzfeed, hundreds of complaints were made against the Kenosha militia page for encouraging armed violence yet the group was allowed to remain on the social network as its content was deemed to be within the rules. Zuckerberg eventually addressed the situation in a scheduled meeting with staff, and released the video publicly on Friday.
“I think that’s painful, that’s really discouraging,” said Zuck, suggesting the decision not to take down the page was wrong, “and it is just another reminder that there is a lot more to do.”
Zuckerberg confirmed that the group’s page “violated this policy that we put in place a couple weeks ago … we were worried [people] could be trying to organize violence.” He went on to say that the failed removal was “largely an operational mistake.” The group’s page has now been deleted.
“It’s because the team that enforces our policy against dangerous organizations is a specialized team,” Zuck said. “The contractors and reviewers who the initial complaints were funneled to didn’t pick this up.”
The Facebook CEO went on to say that, going forward, his site, which has billions of dollars at its disposal to spend on moderators, is going to try hard not to let this happen again. And again. And again. “We have our teams proactively removing content that praises the shooter, we’ve been proactively removing content that praises the shooting,” said Zuckerberg. “We’ve been applying a warning screen to disturbing content.” ®
Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to give more context to the shooting of Jacob Blake.