Facebook’s negligence paved the way for a 17-year-old from Illinois to fatally shoot two people in Kenosha last month amid unrest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a newly filed lawsuit alleges.
The five-count lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Milwaukee on behalf of four people who were in Kenosha late last month when Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of killing Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. Another person was also shot. One of the plaintiffs is Hannah Gittings, Huber’s partner.
Facebook, Rittenhouse, former Kenosha Alderman Kevin Mathewson and Ryan Balch, a member of the far-right extremist group Boogaloo Bois, were also named as defendants. The Kenosha Guard, a militia group started by Mathewson, and the Boogaloo Bois are also being sued.
The Chicago Sun-Times previously reported Balch was with Rittenhouse before he began shooting.
The suit contends, despite more than 400 warnings from the site’s users, Facebook allowed the Kenosha Guard and Boogaloo Bois to use the platform to organize their “defense” of Kenosha during the sometimes violent protests in the Wisconsin city in late August.
“It was only days after plaintiffs and protesters were forced to flee in terror and watch their friends and loved ones die that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a public apology for what he called an ‘operational mistake,’” the suit states. “If we are to adopt the CEO’s highly sanitized phrase, this ‘mistake’ empowered right wing militias to inflict extreme violence and deprive Plaintiffs and protestors of their rights. “
Rittenhouse, of north suburban Antioch, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
The suit also alleges “despite being aware of the explicitly violent rhetoric and threats on the Kenosha Guard’s Facebook and event page, [Mathewson] continued to recruit and organize armed militia, stating to law enforcement officials that they had more than 3,000 RSVPs and an operating plan to guard and block entrances on the streets around the protest.”
In an emailed statement, a representative for Facebook said: “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.”
Rittenhouse’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Mathewson and Balch could not be reached Wednesday.