The lawsuit claims that Facebook allowed a far-right extremist access to social media groups and pages which further radicalized him, culminating in the murder of Oakland Police Officer Dave Patrick Underwood.
The sister of the late Officer Dave Patrick Underwood, who was shot and killed outside a courthouse during Black Lives Matter protests, has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media company of radicalizing the alleged shooter.
According to National Public Radio, Underwood, 53, was shot and killed on May 29, 2020, outside an Oakland, California, courthouse. Prosecutors have since charged Steven Carrillo with Underwood’s murder, although the suspected shooter has not yet been convicted.
Law enforcement say that Carrillo has far-right connections and may have been affiliated with the so-called “Boogaloo Boys.”
In her lawsuit, Angela Underwood Jacobs accused Facebook and its parent company, Meta, of allowing extreme far-right content to remain on their platforms. Underwood Jacobs says that, not only did far-right group use social media to recruit new members, they used Facebook to promote violence, too.
“Facebook Inc. knew or could have reasonably foreseen that one or more individuals would be likely to become radicalized upon joining boogaloo-related groups on Facebook,” the lawsuit states.
N.P.R. notes that investigators now believe that Carrillo—an active-duty Air Force sergeant at the time of Underwood’s shooting—used Facebook and associated platforms to communicate and coordinate with other “boogaloo” supporters.
On the same day he allegedly killed Underwood, Carrillo told a far-right Facebook group that he planned to go to George Floyd protests in Oakland to “show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire.”
“We have mobs of angry people,” Carrillo wrote, “to use to our advantage.”
Carrillo also purportedly said that the protests presented an opportunity to “target the specialty soup bois,” meaning law enforcement.
Underwood Jacobs’ complaint contends that, if Facebook had used a different algorithm to prevent extremist users from being recommended extremist content, Carrillo may not have been able to connect with far-right sympathizers.
“The shooting was not a random act of violence. It was the culmination of an extremist plot hatched and planned on Facebook by two men who Meta connected through Facebook’s groups infrastructure and its use of algorithms designed and intended to increase user engagement and, correspondingly, Meta’s profits,” says the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County, California.
“Facebook,” Underwood Jacobs said, “bears responsibility for the murder of my brother.”
“Facebook knowingly promoted inflammatory and violent content and connected extremists who plotted and carried out the killing of my brother,” she added. “Facebook must be held responsible for the harm it has caused not just my family, but so many others through its promotion of extremist content and by promoting algorithms to actively recruit members to its web platform.”
In a statement released to ABC News, Facebook said that, since summer 2020, it has actively sought to remove far-right groups, including boogaloo groups. And, shortly after the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting in August 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress that the company had made an “operational mistake” in failing to remove a page for a militia group rallying its members to enter the city and “defend” its businesses from Black Lives Matter protesters.
Attorneys for Underwood Jacobs say they plan to show that Facebook has a long-standing history of promoting controversial content to drive its profit margins.