Following an apparent double homicide Tuesday night in Kenosha, Facebook was subjected to a wave of investigations by a self-proclaimed militia group called the Kenosha Guard, which issued a "call to arms" prior to the protest.
Facebook removed Kenosha Guard's Facebook page on Wednesday morning and identified the posts as violating community standards. But while the accounts were ultimately removed, new evidence suggests that the platform had amply warned about the account before the shooting brought the group to the fore.
According to The Verge, at least two separate Facebook users reported the account for inciting violence before the shooting. In each case, the group and its counter-protest event were investigated by Facebook moderators and found that they did not violate the platform's guidelines.
Facebook's response to a user who reported the incident to the Kenosha Guard for inciting violence. (Timestamp edited for data protection reasons)
A user who asked not to be identified by name said she reported the incident to the Kenosha Guards prior to the protest. Facebook moderators replied that the event itself did not violate platform policies, but specific comments on incitement to violence could be reported. She covered a specific comment that threatened to stick nails in the tires of the protesters' cars but was also found to be within Facebook guidelines.
"There were a lot of such comments in the event," she says. "People who talk about being" locked up and loaded ". People who ask what kinds of guns and people respond to" bring everything "."
The comments could not be verified because the original event list is no longer publicly available.
Another Facebook user reported on the event himself and learned that the content does not violate the standards of the Facebook community.
"I felt like there was a possibility of ending in violence and it did," he told The Verge.
Both reports were filed before the shooting occurred but identified the event and the wider Kenosha guard community as likely violent. Last week, Facebook specifically identified militia groups as potentially violent and removed a number of militia sites alongside hundreds of groups affiliated with QAnon. However, it seems that these warnings were not enough to trigger Facebook's existing policies. It wasn't until Wednesday morning, more than nine hours after the shooting, that Kenosha Guard was cited and removed by Facebook as a violation of its guidelines on dangerous people and organizations.
Kenosha was hit by protests for three days in response to a police shootout that paralyzed Jacob Blake. Late Tuesday evening, two people were killed by an armed counter-protester during a march who apparently left the scene without being arrested by police. Kyle Rittenhouse was later identified as a shooter through footage posted on social media and was charged with double homicide by Illinois police on Wednesday afternoon.
Asked for comment, Facebook said the company's investigation had revealed no direct links between the shootings and the Kenosha Guard accounts. "We called this shooting a mass murder and removed the shooter's accounts from Facebook and Instagram," said a Facebook representative. “At this point in time we found no evidence on Facebook that the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the event page they organized. However, the Kenosha Guard Page and its Event Page have violated our new policy for militia organizations and have been removed on this basis. "
Update 17:42 ET: Updated with comment from Facebook.