Ailan Evans on January 6, 2022
The sister of a man allegedly murdered by members of an anti-government movement is suing Facebook parent company Meta, alleging the social media company is liable for her brother’s death, according to a complaint.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Alameda County Superior Court in California, Angela Underwood Jacobs alleges Facebook provided a platform for two men, Steven Carrillo and Robert Alvin Justus, Jr., who allegedly hatched a plot to attack a federal courthouse in Oakland, California. Carrillo allegedly fired at a guard post in front of the courthouse and killed Dave Underwood, Jacobs’ brother.
Jacobs alleges that Carrillo and Justus “connected through Facebook’s groups infrastructure and its use of algorithms designed and intended to increase user engagement,” arguing that Facebook’s recommendation algorithm brought Carrillo and Justus together.
“Facebook aided and abetted an act of domestic terrorism,” Jacobs told the Wall Street Journal. “No one is holding Facebook accountable, and that’s wrong.”
When reached for comment, Meta spokesman Kevin McAlister told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “these claims are without legal basis.”
“We’ve banned more than 1,000 militarized social movements from our platform and work closely with experts to address the broader issue of internet radicalization,” McAlister said.
Traditionally, online platforms like Facebook are immune from liability for third-party content and certain illegal activities under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“There needed to be some sort of special relationship between Facebook and the victim, and the standard customer/vendor relationships don’t have that kind of special relationship,” Santa Clara Law School professor Eric Goldman told CNN. “And, even if the plaintiff could show duty and proximate causation, I think they’re going to fail on Section 230 grounds.”
Jacobs’ lawyers argue that Facebook was aware of how its platform facilitated illegal behavior, and failed to act accordingly.
“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,” Jacobs’ attorney Ted Leopold said in a statement to CNN. “It is time that Facebook is finally held accountable for its actions.”
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