The lawsuit claims that Facebook, despite receiving numerous reports, permitted alt-right militias to propagate violence against Kenosha protesters.
Four people have filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the social media company’s inaction may have facilitated a series of deadly shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
ABC News recalls how Kenosha was the site of “violent protests” following the shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23rd.
Blake, a Black man, was critically injured by Kenosha police after attempting to re-enter his vehicle during a confrontation with law enforcement personnel. Despite being unarmed, Blake was shot multiple times by officers. The entire incident took place in full view of Blake’s children, who were inside his vehicle.
Amidst the ensuing protests, 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse—a firearms enthusiast affiliated with the alt-right—fatally shot two people and injured another.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Tuesday, claims that Facebook failed delete two social media pages which allegedly encouraged violence against protesters.
The complaint—which also names Rittenhouse as a defendant—further states that the shooter may have been influenced by the same content.
According to ABC’s coverage of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs assert that Facebook allowed two “militia” groups—the Kenosha Guard and so-called Boogaloo Boys—to broadcast a “call to arms.” Both groups purportedly urged alt-right sympathizers to confront and attack Black Lives Matter protesters.
“The Call to Arms was immediately ratified with violent rhetoric by Kenosha Guard members, with comments such as ‘leave a pile of them and burn the bodies’ to ‘shoot to kill,’” the suit states.
Throughout the evening, Kenosha Guard members continued to make inflammatory posts and comments, even going so far as to advise followers to “’use [hollow point bullets], they expand on contact.”
Rittenhouse, says the lawsuit, “answered the Call to Arms by driving across state lines from Antioch, Illinois with an assault rifle.”
The plaintiffs say they were “terrorized, assaulted, harassed, and places in so much fear when facing the business end of military grade assault rifles that they determined it was too dangerous to continue to protest.”
The suit also states that Facebook should have anticipated that such “calls to arms” would have led to violence, with the social media company “[receiving] more than 400 warnings that what did happen was going to occur.”
Rittenhouse, adds ABC, was apprehended in Illinois after the shootings and has since been charged with various offenses including homicide.
However, Rittenhouse’s lawyers—and his right-wing supporters—have repeatedly claimed that the youth acted in self-defense.
Lin Wood, a well-known conservative attorney representing Rittenhouse in his criminal case, blasted the lawsuit as “errant nonsense.”
“As to Kyle Rittenhouse, this lawsuit is errant nonsense but may provide a golden opportunity for obtaining documents and sworn testimony from Facebook to bolster Kyle’s future defamation case against Facebook for falsely accusing him of mass murder,” Wood said. “Thus, I view this lawsuit as a blessing in disguise.”
In a separate statement, Facebook emphasized that it had taken prior action against Facebook groups and pages advocating violence against Kenosha protesters. The company also said that it found no evidence that Rittenhouse followed the Kenosha Guard’s Facebook page or otherwise interacted with its Kenosha-related “call to arms.”