Facebook unblocks Rittenhouse searches

Facebook has confirmed that it has unblocked users from searching for or praising Kyle Rittenhouse on the platform after his acquittal of all charges for fatally shooting two people and injuring one during protests in Kenosha, Wis.

The company had initially blocked any searches for Kyle Rittenhouse's name in August 2020. Attempts to search for his name would bring up only blank pages.

“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 parent company Meta said in a statement to The Hill.

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Facebook will continue to remove content that violates broader policies, the spokesperson added.

"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 added.

The news on the policy reversal was first reported by the BBC.

In addition, Rittenhouse will be allowed to rejoin the platform and can create new accounts or ask for his previously removed accounts to be restored, but will still be subject to their terms of service.

Last year, Facebook executive Brian Fishman tweeted that the company had designated the shooting as a "mass murder" and had removed Rittenhouse's accounts from Facebook and Instagram. 
 
He added that Facebook had removed praise and support of the shooter and blocked searches of his name on the platform. 
 
Fishman said via Twitter that "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 said on Twitter on Oct. 28 that he had “decided to leave Facebook to pursue other opportunities.” His last day at the company was Nov. 19, the day the Rittenhouse trial verdict was declared.

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The verdict in the Rittenhouse case also garnered Facebook criticism, with many saying that it had overcompensated by moderating Rittenhouse content before the trial took place.

The Meta spokesperson told The Hill that "we previously allowed people to discuss Rittenhouse and the events in Kenosha in a neutral way but removed praise, support and representation."

Soon after Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyMissouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading On The Money — Ban on stock trading for Congress gains steam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote MORE (R-Mo.), a prominent GOP critic of big tech, said in a statement that "Big Tech think they’re above the law."

"They made up their minds on this case months ago, sought to deny Kyle Rittenhouse the presumption of innocence and censored those who disagreed," Fox Business reported.