This week, the sister of a slain federal officer filed a massive lawsuit against Facebook claiming that the social media giant’s algorithm encouraged and connected the extremists who allegedly killed her brother.
The two men accused of killing officer Dave Patrick Underwood met on Facebook and were allegedly members of the Boogaloo extremist movement. According to the suit, Facebook’s algorithm led these two men down the road to violence, helping them connect, organize, and plan acts of violence.
“Facebook bears responsibility for the murder of my brother,” Angela Underwood Jacobs said in a statement. “Facebook knowingly promoted inflammatory and violent content and connected the extremists who plotted and carried out the killing of my brother.”
“We believe and intend to show that Facebook’s conduct has led to a rise in extremism throughout the world and acts of real-world violence, including the murder of Officer Underwood,” her attorney added. “It is time that Facebook is finally held accountable for its actions.”
However, a communications law called Section 230 provides broad protections to tech companies like Facebook, helping them avoid being held liable for the content on their platforms. This means Facebook could a have legal argument to avoid punishment here, unless their algorithms are shown to connect and help extremist organize. But while this case may be far-fetched, its ambition and far-reaching implications make it well worth monitoring moving forward.
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