On August 9, FBI agents shot and killed a Utah man, Craig Robertson, while serving a warrant at his home for charges related to online threats against President Joe Biden and other public officials.
Right-wing social media site Truth Social allegedly contacted the FBI months ago about Robertson’s posts on the platform threatening Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. But while Robertson’s Facebook profile was filled with similar messages threatening Biden and other Democrats, Meta seemingly failed to moderate the violent content on its platform.
The federal complaint that was filed against Robertson in a Utah court alleged he had “intent to kill, at a minimum, D.A. Bragg and President Joe Biden” and that it was a “willful true threat,” as Biden was scheduled to arrive in Utah on August 9.
The complaint also laid out Robertson’s pattern of violent and threatening posts on two social media companies — “Company-1” and “Company-2” — which have been identified in reporting from the Daily Dot’s Marlon Ettinger as Facebook and Truth Social, respectively. Notably, the FBI agent’s complaint says that Truth Social contacted the bureau about Robertson’s online threats in March.
On, or about, March 19, 2023, I received a notification, which had come from the FBI National Threat Operations Center (“NTOC”), regarding a threat to life. NTOC had received a tip from a social media company (“Company-1”) regarding username @winston4eagles posting a threat on Company-1’s platform to kill New York County District Attorney (“DA”) Alvin Bragg. At the time of the post, DA Bragg was overseeing a criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump.
In comparison, Facebook failed to moderate Robertson’s threatening posts, which seemingly violate the platform’s violence and incitement policy that prohibits “statements of intent to commit high-severity violence,” including “threats that could lead to death.”
The complaint lays out threatening Facebook posts Robertson made throughout 2022 and 2023, including those that were posted just days before Biden arrived in Utah and which were still seemingly on the platform after the confrontation at Robertson’s home.
And it took Meta hours to remove his profile with these threatening posts: Robertson’s Facebook profile was still active as late as 3 p.m. ET on August 9 — hours after the shooting at his home, which reportedly unfolded at 8:15 a.m. ET.
Meta’s failure at moderating Robertson’s threats against Biden and other Democrats is just one example in a larger pattern of the company failing to moderate seemingly violative content and prevent incitement of violence on its platforms.