Social media platforms rendered a verdict on Kyle Rittenhouse long before he went to trial, suppressing claims that he was innocent and blocking users from searching for details of the case.
Immediately after the anti-police riots that thrust Rittenhouse into the national spotlight, social media companies began to block users who expressed support for the Illinois teen. Twitter suspended the accounts of users who called Rittenhouse innocent, including the defendant's own lawyer. Facebook said it "designated this shooting as a mass murder and … removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook and Instagram." The platform also blocked searches for "Kyle Rittenhouse."
Social media platforms often intervene to suppress posts expressing a particular stance on controversial issues. Both platforms censored news stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the month before the 2020 election. Facebook blocked a Gold Star mother’s criticism of President Joe Biden and suppressed a song that criticized the president. Twitter and Facebook also suspended users who oppose vaccine mandates.
The fundraising platform GoFundMe also removed a page set up to support Rittenhouse, which the company said violated its ban on fundraisers involving "the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance." GoFundMe supported fundraising for the family of one of Rittenhouse’s assailants, Anthony Huber. The site regularly hosts fundraisers for individuals associated with Black Lives Matter.
When smaller platforms began raising funds for Rittenhouse, hackers breached the donation lists. News outlets doxxed paramedics and police officers who gave small donations to Rittenhouse’s defense.
Twitter is still banning or suspending users for supporting Rittenhouse, even as the trial proceeds. Facebook searches for Rittenhouse’s name turn up no results. Neither platform responded to requests for comment.
Rittenhouse faces six charges, including two counts of homicide, after shooting three men who attacked him during last August’s anti-police riots in Kenosha, Wis. His murder trial began on Nov. 1. His defense hopes that videos that show rioters assaulting Rittenhouse will bolster his self-defense claim.