Slain Officer’s Sister Sues Facebook Over His Death

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Dave Patrick Underwood. | Image from Facebook

The sister of a federal security officer who was fatally shot is suing Facebook for its alleged role in his death.

The officer was shot while guarding a courthouse during protests related to the death of George Floyd. Facebook is accused of playing a role in radicalizing the shooter.

Dave Patrick Underwood was shot and killed in Oakland, California, on May 29, 2020. Authorities have identified the suspected gunman as Steven Carrillo and have charged him with murder. Investigators say that Carrillo has ties to the anti-government “boogaloo movement” and that he organized with other supporters on Facebook.

The boogaloo movement consists of far-right extremists who reportedly want to overthrow the government through civil war. The group is known to be heavily active on social media.

On Thursday, lawyers for Angela Underwood Jacobs, Underwood’s daughter, filed a lawsuit in California state court. The complaint accuses Facebook of being aware that its network was being used as a tool to recruit boogaloo adherents, but did not take steps to stop recommending pages related to the movement until after Underwood’s death.

“Facebook, Inc. knew or could have reasonably foreseen that one or more individuals would be likely to become radicalized upon joining boogaloo-related groups on Facebook,” the lawsuit states. Underwood Jacobs’ lawyers claim that Facebook was negligent in designing a product “to promote and engage its users in extremist content.”

According to federal investigators, on the same day that Underwood was killed, Carrillo allegedly posted to a Facebook group that he planned to go to those George Floyd protests and “show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire,” he wrote. “We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage.”

Social media platforms usually escape legal responsibility for situations like this one due to a law known as Section 230, which prevents them from being held liable for what users might post. Facebook will likely invoke Section 230 in this case, said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University.

In a statement, Underwood Jacobs’ lawyers said that evidence reveals “Facebook’s active role in shaping content on its website as well as creating and building groups on the platform – activities that fall outside of the conduct protected by Section 230.”

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