Facebook Lying to Consumers, Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic and Father of Slain Journalist Claim in New FTC Complaint

October 12, 2021

Similar to their filing against YouTube in February, 2020, Andy Parker and Georgetown Law clinic allege Facebook deceives consumers by refusing to take down violent murder videos that violate its own Terms of Service.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of a Facebook whistleblower’s explosive allegations that it systematically lies to investors, gun-safety advocate Andy Parker and Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic today filed a complaint today with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that Facebook systematically lies to its more than 2 billion users, too.

The complaint says that Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram unlawfully deceive consumers by allowing violent murder videos to spread and persist on its platform in clear violation of their Terms of Service.

For Parker, accountability has become both a public and very personal mission after his daughter, Alison, was shot to death on live television while working as a local news reporter for WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. in 2015.

Today, countless videos of Alison’s murder are widely accessible on Facebook and Instagram.

“These videos glorify Alison’s murder for sick entertainment, and often promote conspiracy theories about Alison’s death that encourage harassment of her father, an outspoken activist against gun violence,” said Professor Aderson Francois, director of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic.

“Our complaint lays out how, although these videos clearly violate Facebook’s ban on violent content, Facebook continues to refuse to enforce its own rules and remove them from the site.”

Parker and Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic filed a similar complaint against Google and YouTube last year.

“As with Google, imploring Facebook to remove videos of my daughter’s murder in accordance with its own rules, the only responses I’ve received are empty promises,” Parker said. “It’s clear both the FTC and Congress must act to rein in Facebook’s outrageous behavior and hold the company legally accountable.”

“In her recent 60 Minutes interview and subsequent testimony before a Senate subcommittee, whistleblower Frances Haugen exposed what we’ve known since we started fighting this battle,” Parker added. “Facebook, like YouTube, refuses to act because of the money that the video traffic brings in and because federal law provides them with broad legal immunity.”

In response, Parker and Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic today filed an FTC complaint arguing that by failing to remove murder videos from its website and adhere to its own Terms of Service, Facebook is actively engaged in consumer deception under the FTC Act.

Parker, who also works closely with the Coalition for a Safer Web, alleges this deception is widespread, and that in addition to videos of Alison’s murder, Facebook is rife with murder and conspiracy videos, including:

  • Conspiracy videos harassing the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook
  • Raw images and video footage of teen suicides and murders, sometimes even including content that sexualizes underage girls
  • Videos showing people committing murder or being shot and killed while livestreaming to Facebook and other social media platforms

The Civil Rights Clinic’s requested FTC action would require Facebook to change its lax content monitoring process or be subject to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. Removing this content from Facebook would ensure that countless people like Parker who have suffered unimaginable loss are no longer subject to torment and abuse from conspiracy theorists and are no longer required to constantly police the internet to secure the removal of violent content involving their own family members.

For a copy of the FTC complaint, please contact mediarelations@law.georgetown.edu

About Andy Parker: After his daughter’s murder, Andy Parker vowed to do “whatever it takes” to end gun violence in America. He’s now known as a gun-control activist who has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and CBS, including 60 Minutes and Face the Nation. He has also been interviewed by multiple international news outlets and has been a contributor to such national publications as the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, Huffington Post, and USA Today. He is a member of the National Press Club, and is the author of For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and Her Father’s Fight for Gun Safety.

About Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic: Georgetown University Law Center’s Civil Rights Clinic operates as a small not-for-profit law firm representing individual clients who have suffered from discrimination, harassment, or other rights violations. The Clinic also represents several clients who have been targeted by conspiracy theorists or whose privacy has been invaded by corporate entities.