Confusing Social Media Messages on Kyle Rittenhouse Leave Supporters Scratching Their Heads

More than four weeks after a jury declared that Kyle Rittenhouse was not guilty of any crimes, some supporters who have been saying for months that the teenager acted in self-defense when killing two men and wounding a third during riots last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are still dealing with the social media fallout of their opinions.

Josiah Lippincott, writing for The Federalist, for example, says he tweeted just prior to the Nov. 19 not guilty verdict that "Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong," then Twitter suspended him for 12 hours. Feeling vindicated after the verdict of not guilty on all charges, he tweeted the exact same sentence again — and Twitter suspended him for a full week.

But perhaps at the top of the fallout list is conservative podcaster Dinesh D'Souza, who tells Newsweek he is not only demonetized on Facebook but is also one "offense" away from losing his entire page with 2 million followers. His latest perceived sin was posting a TV clip of himself on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show where he praised Rittenhouse, who Facebook previously declared was a "dangerous individual" who committed "mass murder."

"Think about the male population of Kenosha, where were they?" D'Souza asked Ingraham in the clip that aired two days prior to the verdict. "Cowering in their homes while all these people were burning things and setting things on fire and attacking people. So Kyle Rittenhouse was one of the few guys who had the guts to get out there when no one else did."

After D'Souza posted the clip, Facebook sent him a message reading, "You're restricted from advertising," according to documents reviewed by Newsweek. And after the verdict, Facebook said it would not be reversing its decision to give him a strike against his account.

"I could repost the Ingraham appearance, but that is not the point," said D'Souza. "The point is I am demonetized, restricted in distribution, which goes on for about a year, and I'm in danger of losing my whole page if I have another 'offense,' which could be just as arbitrary."

"Who wants a group of know-it-alls telling you what you can or can't say?" D'Souza asked. "Facebook is now more intolerant than a backward medieval village."

Prior to the verdict, Facebook acknowledged it took down both Rittenhouse's Facebook and Instagram pages and that it was stifling searches for "Kyle Rittenhouse," making it difficult for its users to even see or hear the defense his attorneys were mounting.

Meanwhile, negative comments about Rittenhouse were rampant and unpunished on social media. Actress Rosanna Arquette, for example, tweeted prior to the verdict that "Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer. The end."

Twitter and Facebook have been saying for months, even years, that they are cracking down on "misinformation," but it has allowed users to call Rittenhouse a "murderer," even though "murder" is a legal term defined as "the unlawful killing of another human being without justification or valid excuse."

The list of Hollywood celebrities, for example, who have publicly accused Rittenhouse of "murder" or being a "murderer" with impunity via Twitter includes Arquette, Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, Fast and Furious actor Chad Lindberg and Pedro Pascal, the star of Disney's The Mandalorian TV series. Others have called him a "killer" or some version of a "white supremacist."

After the verdict, Rachel Zegler, who stars as Maria in Steven Spielberg's new version of West Side Story, tweeted that Rittenhouse's "heinous heinous crimes is the epitome of white privilege and is exactly what is wrong with this godforsaken country," and Twitter allowed it, even though Rittenhouse was not guilty of the crimes he was accused of committing.

Newsweek asked Twitter to clarify its rules regarding tweets in support of Rittenhouse — both prior to Nov. 19 and after — but received instead its general policy against "abusive content, including content that violates our glorification of violence policy and/or abusive behavior policy."

Activists protest Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal
Weeks after Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty, some supporters are still dealing with the social media fallout regarding their opinions. Above, activists protest the verdict in the Rittenhouse trial, on Nov. 21, 2021, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

Facebook said that, post-verdict, it recently allowed Rittenhouse's "team" to set up new Facebook and Instagram pages, and added: "We rolled back the restrictions we had in place that limited search results from returning content related to key terms including 'Kyle Rittenhouse.' 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."

Prior to the verdict, a Facebook insider confirmed that, while discussion of Rittenhouse in a positive light was restricted, it was fine to either condemn him or to be "neutral." Prior to the verdict, simple posts like "Free Kyle" were removed, according to a Facebook insider who spoke to the New York Post in October when he accused his colleagues of being "drunk on the absolute power of being in control of civics in America."

TikTok is also being criticized for "censoring" positive posts about Rittenhouse, even after his acquittal.

Rittenhouse had been set to attend Arizona State University (he has since withdrawn) to study nursing or law, but a group called Students for Socialism ASU organized a rally to protest, and tweeted after his acquittal that he is a "racist murderer," which Twitter has allowed to stand.

That's when a libertarian group dubbed Young Americans for Liberty posted a TikTok video exclaiming that "after Kyle Rittenhouse revealed that he had enrolled as an online student at ASU, the collegiate woke mob was unleashed. A coalition of student groups has started a campaign to demand that Kyle Rittenhouse be expelled from ASU, citing that he is a violent, racist murderer and poses a threat to the whole student body." TikTok, though, reportedly removed the video supportive of Rittenhouse.

TikTok did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment, and Newsweek sent an email to Twitter reading: "I noticed that tweets calling him a 'murderer' are allowed, even after he was acquitted. Is Twitter doing nothing to prevent that 'misinformation'? Yet a post-verdict tweet saying 'he did nothing wrong' caused a suspension. Any clarification?"

Twitter did not respond.

Even Lin Wood, an attorney who was raising money for Rittenhouse's defense, was blocked from tweeting for nine hours after he tweeted, prior to the verdict, that the teenager was innocent, and he told Fox News last year he'd be suing Twitter over the incident. "I'm going to take Jack Dorsey's ass down," he said of the company's then-CEO.

Dorsey has since stepped down to focus on Block, a tech-finance company he runs, and Twitter, at the time, acknowledged it was wrong to punish Wood, whose fallout includes a host of negative commentary from conservative media hosts after Rittenhouse accused him of taking money for his "own benefit, not trying to set me free." Wood tells Newsweek he is contemplating lawsuits against media personalities including Tucker Carlson and Dan Bongino for reporting Rittenhouse's claims, allegedly without reaching out to Wood for his response.

The complaints against social media for "censoring" conservatives accused of spreading misinformation is not new, though the confusion of what is and is not allowed to be said about a teenager acquitted of murder comes as Facebook said in legal documents that the independent "fact checks" it uses to determine the accuracy of claims made on its platform are "opinion."

That revelation comes courtesy of libertarian John Stossel, who said on his online show that "while climate change undoubtedly contributes to forest fires, it was not the primary cause of the 2020 California fires," and he argued instead that they were primarily caused by government mismanagement of forests.

Facebook tagged the show "missing context" and "misleading," so Stossel sued for defamation. Attorneys for Facebook, owned by Meta Platforms, responded this month by saying, in part, "The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion."

"My problem with the censorship," said D'Souza, "is it is all concealed in false advertising. They are not correcting misinformation, they are not checking facts; they are merely shutting down alternative points of view. My solution is to invest in alternative platforms. I am investing in both Parler and Rumble."

Hours after Rittenhouse was acquitted, Republican Senator Josh Hawley issued a statement reading: "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."

Update, 10/18/21 at 7:49 p.m. ET: TikTok has restored the pro-Rittenhouse video posted by Young Americans for Liberty.