Facebook and Instagram now allow praise for Kyle Rittenhouse

Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured a third on Aug. 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Now, Meta has decided it will no longer remove comments on Facebook and Instagram that praise him.

Days after Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, Facebook’s Brian Fishman tweeted that the company was implementing its then week-old policy for dealing with such incidents.

“Yesterday we designated the shooting as a mass murder and removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook & Instagram,” Fishman tweeted on Aug. 27. “Per standard practice in these situations, we are also removing praise and support of the shooter and have also blocked searches of his name on our platforms.”

“Companies like Facebook owe it to everyone to closely examine the influence of online content on such violence — and to take action to stop it,” Fishman continued.

However, with a jury finding Rittenhouse not guilty of homicide or any other charge this November, the company formerly known as Facebook has now decided that praise and support for this particular shooter is now acceptable.

Speaking to The Verge, a Meta spokesperson stated that the company’s policy regarding conversations about Rittenhouse and the Kenosha shootings is being rolled back to once more allow admiration for the shooter. It’s a somewhat bizarre and potentially dangerous change, as Rittenhouse is most known and likely to be lauded for shooting people — behaviour many would prefer to discourage.

“While we will still remove content that celebrates the death of the individuals killed in Kenosha, we will no longer remove content containing praise or support of Rittenhouse,” Meta’s spokesperson told The Verge.

Mashable has reached out to Meta to inquire how it distinguishes between celebrating the deaths of Rosenbaum and Huber, and praising Rittenhouse for having shot them.

The Meta spokesperson further stated that Facebook and Instagram’s previous search restrictions concerning Kyle Rittenhouse were being removed, and that he is free to rejoin the company’s platforms if he so chooses. Mashable has asked Meta whether Rittenhouse will have to build his social media profiles from scratch, or if his previous ones will be reinstated.

Facebook has come under significant scrutiny in past years for facilitating radicalisation, violence, and societal division. Regardless of the court’s verdict, Meta’s unprompted decision to resume hosting praise for a notoriously divisive shooter is unlikely to help rectify these issues.

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