Meta indicted for alleged role in extremist murder of federal guards

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

Underwood was shot and killed outside a federal building in Oakland, California, in May 2020. The two men charged in the case were later associated with the so-called “boogaloo” anti-government movement, which banned Facebook from its platform in June 2020 citing the group’s history of “actively promoting violence against citizens, law enforcement, and government officials and agencies.”

“The shooting was not an arbitrary act of violence,” the lawsuit said. “It was the culmination of an extremist plot hatched and planned on Facebook by two men who connected Meta through Facebook’s group infrastructure and using algorithms designed and intended to enhance user engagement and, accordingly, profits from to increase meta.” The lawsuit alleges the two men would never have met without Facebook’s recommendations, leading them both to join groups that “openly advocated violence.”

A spokesperson for Meta said in a statement to The New York Times that the “claims are without legal basis” and pointed to the company’s work to ban “militarized social movements.”

The lawsuit is not the first time Meta has been accused of her role in fueling extremism and violence. Facebook’s own researchers warned that group recommendations were driving users toward extremism in 2016, according to internal company documents first reported by The Wall Street Journal. And documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen have raised questions about Facebook’s role in inciting violence around the world. Meta was also recently charged by a group of Rohingya refugees over Facebook’s role in amplifying hate speech that incites genocide in the country.

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

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