Activists call on Facebook to ban armed event listings after Kenosha shooting

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In the aftermath of the Kenosha shooting, an activist group called Change the Terms is calling on Facebook to institute new policies around potentially dangerous content, including a blanket ban on “event pages that encourage people to bring weapons to events.”

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, group called for a broad enhancement of Facebook’s moderation against extremism, including more automated tools for proactive enforcement and better systems for detecting event pages that promote violence. Another recommendation echoes an internal Facebook report (obtained by Buzzfeed News last week) that suggested better monitoring of spikes in user feedback reports.

“We cannot stress enough the urgency of our requests,” the letter reads. “You have the power to save lives and significantly influence the health of our democracy.”

Reached for comment, Facebook said it was considering the recommendations, but declined to comment further. “We are reviewing Change the Terms’ thoughtful suggestions and look forward to continuing the ongoing conversation with them,” a Facebook representative said.

The questions come after the killing of two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which came after a number of militia-linked event listings on Facebook had encouraged armed attendance. A number of Facebook users reported the pages as likely to incite violence, but moderators refused to remove them prior to the shooting.

The morning after the rally, Facebook pulled down the pages, affirming that they did violate Facebook policy. In a public speech, Mark Zuckerberg called the decision “an operational error” resulting from the specialized training given to the moderators who enforce the platform’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.

Facebook policy on firearm moderation is mixed, and is more lax than many of its competitors. Unlike Google, Facebook does not block gun ads, provided they’re made by a registered dealer and are in accordance with local laws. Facebook prohibits personal gun sales as a matter of policy, but in practice, moderation has been ineffective in driving such sales off the platform.

But for activists, the issue is too urgent to delay. “Facebook must commit to stopping hate, and invest more in doing so,” said Jessica J. González, co-founder of Change the Terms. “It’s not hard to distinguish between white supremacist and militia groups and those protesting hate…. It’s even easier to identify and remove violent groups calling for people to bring weapons to in person events organized on Facebook.”

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