(Reuters) – Social media platform Facebook has removed restrictions on users praising or searching for the name of Kyle Rittenhouse after a jury acquitted the teenager of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests last year.
“After the verdict in Kenosha we rolled back the restrictions we had in place that limited search results from returning content related to key terms including Kyle Rittenhouse,” a spokesperson for Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Last month, a jury acquitted Rittenhouse of murder in the fatal shooting of the two men in a decision that reignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self defense in the United States.
Jurors found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all charges: two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on Aug. 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and fired a bullet that tore a chunk off the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28. Rittenhouse claimed self defense.
Last year, Facebook designated the killings a mass shooting and pledged to remove content praising Rittenhouse, saying such content violated their policies and would be taken off their platform.
The prosecution had portrayed Rittenhouse as a reckless vigilante who provoked the violent encounters and showed no remorse for the men he shot with his AR-15-style rifle. The defense argued that Rittenhouse had been repeatedly attacked and had shot the men in fear for his life.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang)