WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine, along with Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, and New Jersey AG Gurbir S. Grewal, today issued a letter urging Facebook, Inc. (Facebook) to halt advertisements of military tactical gear and weapon accessories until after the inauguration. Following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, technology and social media companies made public statements proclaiming that they would not tolerate their platform being used to incite violence. Yet Facebook continues to target advertisements for military tactical gear and weapon accessories to users who follow extremist content. The company also presents these advertisements in connection with posts that promote election misinformation. In the letter, the Attorneys General urge the company to immediately halt these types of advertisements while the District of Columbia and state capitol buildings across the country prepare for heightened violence.
“The looming threat of violence to the District of Columbia ahead of the Inauguration, to our state capitol buildings, and to our democratic institutions, demands that technology and social media companies take proactive steps to further minimize extremist activity on their platforms,” said AG Racine. “That’s why state Attorneys General are calling on Facebook to halt advertisements for military gear and weapon accessories to its users—including some who engage in extremist activity and help spread misinformation. Facebook cannot take credit publicly for efforts to minimize extremist activity while they quietly profit from targeted advisements to users who incite violence.”
Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, is a social networking service founded in 2004 that allows users to share content online. Every day, more than half of the U.S. population over the age of 13 uses Facebook services. The company makes money by selling targeted advertising that it can target to its users based on personal data Facebook compiles. Following the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, Facebook permanently removed President Donald Trump’s account for using the platform to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” However, users believed to have an affinity for extremist content and election misinformation are continuing to post and receive targeted advertisements for military tactical gear, which could further promote and facilitate violent and politically motivated attacks.
AG Racine is currently serving as the 2021 president of National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and in December announced an initiative focused on combatting hate and extremism – which has received heightened attention in the aftermath of last week’s attack. State capitols and the U.S. Capitol, continue to experience increased threats of violence. As a result, the District of Columbia has declared a state of emergency which is in effect until Friday, January 22, 2021, at 5:00 a.m, in preparation for the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021.
A copy the letter is available at https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2021-01/AGs-Ltr-Facebook-Re-Ads.pdf.
Holding Lawbreakers Accountable for the Attack on the Capitol
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is working closely with local and federal law enforcement partners to ensure all those who participated in or caused last week’s attack in the District are held accountable. OAG is investigating and can bring criminal charges against individuals for curfew violations, disorderly conduct—including for inciting violence, crossing police lines, as well as certain weapon and ammunition-related offenses. Other offenses are prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Members of the public who have information about potential criminal activity should submit a tip to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Submit a tip to the FBI by filling out a complaint online at FBI.gov/uscapitol. Submit a tip to MPD by calling (202) 727-9099 or texting 50411.
AG Racine’s 2021 NAAG Presidential Initiative Countering Hate
As President of NAAG, a non-partisan group of 56 state and territory Attorneys General, AG Racine announced his presidential initiative entitled, The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity to increase awareness of and build resilience to hate. This year, AG Racine hosted virtual discussions between District residents and community partners on topics such as Combating Hate and Extremism, Stopping the Spread of Violence and COVID-19, Hearing from DC Youth on Combating Hate and Discrimination, and Standing Against Bullying, Harassment, and Hate. In partnership with Project Create, OAG launched a D.C. youth art competition called Artists v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity, to empower D.C. youth to stand up against hate, promote social justice, and inspire change through art.