Facebook on Wednesday removed a block on searches for the name Kyle Rittenhouse that it had put into place following his arrest for an August 2020 shooting in Wisconsin that left two people dead and a third seriously injured. Last month, a jury in Kenosha acquitted Rittenhouse on all charges.
In the days following the shooting, the company removed Rittenhouse’s profile from Facebook and Instagram and blocked users from creating new profiles using his name, to prevent copycats from spreading misinformation. By the end of that week, Facebook was blocking searches for “Kyle Rittenhouse,” as well as removing expressions of praise or support for him on the platforms.
“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,” Sally Aldous, spokesperson for Facebook parent company Meta, said in a statement to The Verge. “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 changes were rolled out in the days following the verdict, Aldous said. “Given the granularity of these policies as well as the wide public interest in these events, we anticipate enforcement at scale will be especially challenging,” she said, adding that Rittenhouse himself does not currently have any accounts on Meta’s platforms — which include Facebook and Instagram — but in theory he would now be able to rejoin them. Like all users, however, he would be subject to the company’s community standards.