IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Zuckerberg says Facebook made 'operational mistake' in not taking down militia page

The page belonged to the Kenosha Guard, a self-identified local militia that had set up an event on Facebook calling for people to take to the streets with weapons.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Senate hearing.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a Senate hearing on April 10, 2018.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday that the company made an “operational mistake” when it failed to take down a Wisconsin militia group’s page that violated Facebook’s rules.

The page belonged to the Kenosha Guard, a self-identified local militia that had set up an event on Facebook calling for people to take to the streets with weapons during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer.

“There have been a bunch of media reports asking why this page and event weren’t removed sooner, especially when in this case a bunch of people did report the page,” Zuckerberg said in a video on his own Facebook page.

“The reason for this is, it was largely an operational mistake,” he said.

Zuckerberg said that reviewing the pages of possible militia groups requires understanding nuance. “The contractors and the reviewers who the initial complaints were funnelled to basically didn’t pick this up,” he said.

Later, a second, more specialized team reviewing the page did understand the nuance and ordered the page taken down, he said.

“The team that enforces our policy against dangerous organizations is a specialized team that is trained to look for symbolism and innuendo and different things that require a significant amount of training in some of these cases to understand the details or nuances,” Zuckerberg said of the second team of reviewers.

A teenager has been charged with homicide after two protesters were shot to death in Kenosha.

Zuckerberg’s video was part of his regular question-and-answer sessions with Facebook employees. The event is usually private, though Facebook has sometimes released transcripts or video from the sessions especially after leaks to the media.

Some Facebook employees used Friday’s session to sharply criticize the company’s slow response to the violence in Wisconsin, BuzzFeed News reported.

“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled bile to spread across our services?” wrote one employee, according to BuzzFeed. “[A]nti semitism, conspiracy, and white supremacy reeks across our services.”

Facebook has a policy in its rulebook against “dangerous individuals and organizations,” and it generally covers militia groups in the U.S. The policy bars “any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Facebook.”

Facebook also bans praise for people who commit mass shootings, a policy that the company was struggling to enforce effectively this week.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was trying to improve and that it had people “proactively looking for content and removing content” that praises the shooting or the shooter.

But he also warned that there was a “significant risk of civil unrest” leading up to the November election.

“This shows that there is a real risk and a continued, increased risk through the election during this very sensitive and polarized and just highly charged time,” he said.