Sister of murdered security guard sues Facebook for murder linked to Boogaloo movement: NPR

Sister of murdered security guard sues Facebook for murder linked to Boogaloo movement: NPR

Mourners see the body of Federal Protective Services Officer Dave Patrick Underwood after a memorial service in June 2020. Underwood was fatally shot while guarding a federal building in Oakland, Calif., Amid protests linked to George Floyd.

Ben Margot / AP


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Ben Margot / AP


Mourners see the body of Federal Protective Services Officer Dave Patrick Underwood after a memorial service in June 2020. Underwood was fatally shot while guarding a federal building in Oakland, Calif., Amid protests linked to George Floyd.

Ben Margot / AP

The sister of a federal security guard who was shot and killed while guarding a courthouse during protests linked to George Floyd sued Facebook, accusing the tech giant of playing a role in radicalization of the alleged shooter.

Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, was shot and killed on May 29, 2020 in Oakland, California. Authorities have charged suspected shooter Steven Carrillo with murder. Investigators say Carrillo had ties to the anti-government far-right boogaloo movement and had organized with other boogaloo supporters on Facebook.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in California state court against Meta, Facebook’s parent company, Angela Underwood Jacobs accused Facebook officials of being aware the social network was being used as a recruiting tool for members of Facebook. boogaloo, but hasn’t taken action to stop recommending boogaloo. -pages linked until after Underwood’s death.

The boogaloo movement is a group of far-right extremists who claim to want to overthrow the US government with a second civil war. Sometimes clad in Hawaiian T-shirts, the group is known to be heavily armed and very active online.

Lawyers for Underwood Jacobs say Facebook was negligent in designing a product “to promote and engage its users in extremist content” knowing it could lead to potential violence.

“Facebook Inc. knew or could have reasonably foreseen that one or more people would be susceptible to radicalization by joining groups related to boogaloo on Facebook”, indicates the complaint.

Federal investigators said Carrillo, an Air Force sergeant at the time of the shooting, used Facebook to communicate with other boogaloo supporters. On the same day Underwood was killed, Carrillo reportedly reported to a Facebook group that he was planning to go to George Floyd’s protests in Oakland to “show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire,” he reportedly reported. writing. “We have crowds of angry people to use to our advantage,” according to federal prosecutors.

Authorities say Carrillo wrote that the protest was “a group opportunity to target the specialty of wood soup,” a phrase boogaloo enthusiasts use to refer to law enforcement officials because of the “soup. to the alphabet “of acronyms of federal law enforcement agencies.

The Underwood Jacobs lawsuit argues that if Facebook changed its algorithm to not recommend and promote boogaloo groups, Carrillo may never have been connected online with other members of the extremist movement.

“Facebook bears responsibility for my brother’s murder,” Underwood Jacobs said.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the company will fight the lawsuit.

“These allegations are without legal basis,” Stone said.

The lawsuit is the latest attempt to hold a big tech company liable for real-world damage.

Social media companies largely escape legal liability in such cases thanks to a law known as Section 230, which prevents online platforms from being held accountable for what users post.

There have been rare exceptions in attempting to sue tech companies, such as when an appeals court found Snapchat could be sued for a feature that allegedly encouraged reckless driving.

Eric Goldman, a University of Santa Clara Law School professor who studies Section 230, said Facebook would likely invoke the legal shield in this case, but said the lawsuit faces other hurdles as well. .

“There have been a number of lawsuits attempting to establish that Facebook is responsible for the way violent groups and terrorists have used their services,” Goldman said. “And the courts have consistently dismissed these claims because services like Facebook are not liable for damages caused by people using the service.”

The lawsuit relies heavily on the Facebook Files, a cache of internal company documents exposed in a series of stories by the Wall Street Journal. Among the claims, Facebook’s algorithm promotes extremism, inflammatory and divisive content in order to maintain user engagement and ad investment. Facebook researchers estimated that the social network only captures between 3% and 5% of hate speech on the platform.

In a statement, lawyers for Underwood Jacobs said the Facebook files revealed “Facebook’s active role in shaping the content of its website as well as creating and building groups on the platform – activities that do not fall within the scope of conduct protected by section 230 “.

Facebook has reportedly banned nearly 1,000 private groups focused on “militarized social movements like boogaloo.

Facebook has already acknowledged its role in the militia-fueled violence. In August 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he made an “operational error” in failing to remove the page of a militia group calling on armed citizens to enter Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two protesters were shot dead there during protests against the police shooting against Jacob Blake.

That same month, Facebook said it removed 2,400 pages and more than 14,000 groups from the militia-launched site.

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