Facebook has overturned its decision to restrict searches for a US teen acquitted of killing two people during rioting in Wisconsin.
Following Kyle Rittenhouse’s shooting in August 2020, the corporation took action to ensure that searches for his name would return a list of blank results. Mr Rittenhouse, 18, was acquitted of two counts of homicide and one count of an attempted homicide earlier this month.
Brian Fishman, the former director of Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations division, said the firm had banned searches for the teen’s name in a Twitter thread shortly after the massacre. He also claimed that Mr Rittenhouse’s appreciation on Facebook was being removed.
Other prominent social media platforms’ policies did not go as far as this one.
YouTube, for example, had no Kyle Rittenhouse policy in place and only removed content that violated existing guidelines against glorifying violence.
Last year, the kid acknowledged killing two individuals and wounding a third during racial riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin but claimed he was acting in self-defence. Some see Mr Rittenhouse as a national hero, while others see him as a rash vigilante. For moderators, deciding where to draw the line between support and glorification of violence is a challenging task.
Facebook, on the other hand, chose a different approach. Mr Rittenhouse’s accounts were deleted.
Despite the fact that people were permitted to speak about Mr Rittenhouse on the platform, a search for his name yielded a list of blank pages. Because of his acquittal, Facebook’s policy has become more difficult to enforce.
The decision also raised the question of whether Facebook went too far in filtering Rittenhouse-related information.
Facebook’s move to ban searches for his name was blasted by many right-wing publications and broadcasters in the United States.
However, Facebook would claim that a sad act of violence requires a concrete response.
Mr Rittenhouse does not have a Facebook or Instagram account, which is understandable. It’s unclear whether Facebook will prevent him from doing so in the future.