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Lawsuit accuses Facebook of enabling violence in Kenosha

Lawsuit accuses Facebook of enabling violence in Kenosha
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Several residents of Kenosha, Wis., are accusing Facebook of allowing its platform to be used by right-wing militias to commit violence in the city last month during demonstrations against the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

BuzzFeed News reported that a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that Facebook's platform “empowered right wing militias to inflict extreme violence and deprive Plaintiffs and protestors of their rights” by allowing the militias to recruit members and plan operations.

The four plaintiffs include three Kenosha residents and one activist from Milwaukee who traveled to Kenosha to march with a church group, according to BuzzFeed. One of the plaintiffs is the partner of an individual who was fatally shot during the protests, allegedly by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Illinois.

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“There is a failure on the part of Facebook to act based upon warnings that result in armed militias violating state law and in the case of Rittenhouse going to a peaceful protest to violently repress and deter American citizens from engaging in their constitutional rights,” attorney Jason Flores-Williams told BuzzFeed.

The allegations center around an Aug. 25 event posted on Facebook's platform titled "Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property,” created by a right-wing militia group in which participants openly joked about shooting protesters. Facebook should have taken down the event once violent threats were made towards protesters, the suit alleges.

“Facebook, where most of the conspiring took place, failed to act to prevent this harm,” reads the lawsuit. “Despite over 400 reports of the Kenosha Guard’s event page and its call to arms, as well as the violent rhetoric throughout, Facebook failed to remove the page from its site until after several deaths, injuries, and extensive harassment occurred.”

A Facebook spokesperson told The Hill in an email that they had not seen evidence linking Rittenhouse to the Kenosha Guard's page.

“We removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and took action against organizations and content related to Kenosha. We have found no evidence that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the Event Page they organized," said a company spokesperson.

Rittenhouse faces criminal charges, including homicide, for his alleged role in the Aug. 27 shooting. Police say the teenager crossed state lines with a weapon he was not legally allowed to possess with the intent of harming protesters; his attorney has alleged that Rittenhouse shot multiple people in self-defense.

Updated at 4:45 p.m.