The family of a security guard who was shot and killed while protecting a federal building in Oakland is suing Facebook because the plan to carry out the shooting was allegedly hatched using the social network.
Angela Underwood Jacobs filed the complaint in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday against Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc.
On May 29, 2020, her brother, Dave Underwood, was hit with multiple rounds from a gun fired by an alleged anti-government extremist.
Federal prosecutors said that former Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo shot several rounds at Underwood and his partner as they were manning their posts outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.
Underwood was fatally wounded. His partner survived the shooting.
The feds allege that Carrillo, 32, was linked to the far-right anti-government “boogaloo” movement. Carrillo has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges.
In the legal filing, Underwood’s sister alleges that on the day before the shooting, Carrillo posted a video on a Facebook group page showing a crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol officers.
The filmed attack took place as the country was in the grip of widespread demonstrations and rioting just days after the police-involved death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis.
The lawsuit claims that Facebook’s algorithm enabled Robert Alvin Justus Jr to receive an invitation to join the group, which was linked to the “boogaloo” movement.
Carrillo and Justus then began to correspond. The two men are alleged to have plotted to drive to Oakland in a van and to target a federal government agent.
Justus has pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting murder and attempted murder.
Tory Nugent, an attorney representing Underwood’s family, accused Facebook of doing “something far different than simply facilitate a bulletin board.”
“Facebook aided and abetted an act of domestic terrorism,” Underwood Jacobs wrote in the legal filing.
“No one is holding Facebook accountable, and that’s wrong.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to comment.
The company has claimed that it has taken action against far-right extremists groups by cracking down on group pages that espouse militant views.
The lawsuit will challenge longstanding protections against legal liability shield tech companies like Facebook and others.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives immunity to tech platforms that rely on third-party users to generate content.
Facebook and other social media platforms have come under criticism for failing to adequately regulate hate speech and other content.