Meta prosecuted for alleged involvement in murder of federal guard linked to extremists

Deepak Gupta January 7, 2022
Updated 2022/01/07 at 3:04 AM

The surviving sister of Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal security guard who was killed in a shootout in 2020, has filed for a lawsuit against Meta, the parent organization of Facebook. The lawsuit seeks to hold the company accountable for connecting the two men accused of the murder plot and giving them an online space to plan the attack.

Underwood was shot outside a federal building in Oakland, Calif., in May 2020. The two men accused in the case were later linked to the so-called anti-government movement “boogaloo”, which Facebook banned from its platform in June 2020, citing the group story of “actively promoting violence against civilians, police and government officials and institutions”.

“The shooting was not a random act of violence”, the process States. “It was the culmination of an extremist plot engineered and planned on Facebook by two men that Meta connected through Facebook’s group infrastructure and their use of algorithms designed and intended to increase user engagement and hence Meta’s profits.” The lawsuit alleges that the two men would never have met had it not been for Facebook’s recommendations, which led them to join groups that “openly advocated violence.”

A Meta spokesman said in a statement The New York Times that the “claims have no legal basis” and pointed to “militarized social movements” for the company’s work.

The process is hardly the first time Meta has been implicated for its role in fueling extremism and violence. Facebook researchers themselves warned that the group’s recommendations were putting pressure on users in 2016, according to internal company documents first reported by wall street newspaper. And whistleblower Frances Haugen’s documents have on Facebook’s role in inciting violence around the world. Meta was also from a group of Rohingya refugees on Facebook’s role in amplifying the hate speech that has incited a genocide in the country.

In a statement to ABC, Ted Leopold, who represents Underwood’s sister, referred to Haugen’s disclosures about Facebook. “We believe and intend to show that Facebook’s conduct has led to an increase in worldwide extremism and acts of violence in the real world, including the assassination of Officer Underwood,” said Leopold.

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