It has been another day of dueling hashtags on Twitter, as both #KyleRittenhouseIsGuilty and #FreeKyleRittenhouse were trending as the trial of the 18-year-old continued in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was charged with killing two people – Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber – and wounding a third, Gaige Grosskreutz.
Rittenhouse (17 years old) claims that Rittenhouse acted in self defense during protests in August 2020 against police violence.
Rittenhouse was supported and detested on social media even before his trial began. However, it wasn’t until Rittenhouse’s testimony on Wednesday that differing views really made their way onto Twitter. Unfortunately, not all of the tweets came from lawyers.
Many images and facts were presented without context.
HillReporter.com’s Tara Dublin (@taradublinrocks) shared a photo of the then 17-year-old with an AR-15, captioned, “This is a picture of a not at all innocent person #KyleRittenhouseIsGuilty.”
Author Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) defended the 18-year-old and offered a factoid of the three victims and tweeted, “If you would like to check the stats of the two white people who Kyle Rittenhouse shot in obvious self-defense— here you go. Our FBI knew Kyle wasn’t guilty. The media also knew Kyle was innocent. All of them allowed Kyle to be abused and publically fed the BLM lies.”
These are just two examples from the many tweets making rounds Thursday.
These and other tweets continued to show the facts of the case.
“Most misinformation on social media can be traced back to a very small amount of truth, which gets magnified so those who are exposed believe it to have been completely true,” said Prof. Ericka Mence-Trevino assistant professor in School of Communication, American University in Washington D.C.
Menchen-Trevino stated that “it isn’t difficult to debunk social media misinformation, but it is more challenging to explain some of the subtexts.”
“Anytime we have these smoke screens on social media we need to remember that it is really people sharing their opinion – not their educated opinion – and they’re not looking to present the facts,” added Jason Mollica, professorial lecturer, also in the American University School of Communication. The general public is consuming news via Twitter and other social networks, but they don’t care to see the whole story. They are looking for quick news and headlines they can consume quickly.
Increasingly this is why social media isn’t really all that trusted – because it is so difficult to tell what is real or not.
As we have seen, however, social media can impact the legal system in some way. Already, movies and TV shows have impacted what those serving on juries expect to see – this includes the “CSI Effect,” where some have had higher expectations about scientific evidence than what they actually see in a court case.
As potential jurors might be exposed via social media, this could create a fresh trial. These information can be found in social networks even if they have been told not to.
Mollica stated, “It’s impossible for the facts of an instance not to be revealed.” It could prove difficult to find an impartial individual.
Even if juries aren’t swayed by social media, the public could be – especially if it is shared by someone who is held in high regard. LeBron James of the NBA (@KingJames) tweeted about Rittenhouse’s case. This tweet was in response to Rittenhouse’s testimony. The young defendant fell apart during this time.
“What tears ?????” It didn’t exist. This is a great idea! James posted the following tweet on Wednesday evening: “That boy had some lemon heads just before he walked into court.”
The tweet with a trio of laughing emoticons was liked over 200,000 times, and retweeted almost 30,000 times. He was not the only one who disagreed. James was criticized by many for his inappropriate responses.
“You are literally the King of Faking Injuries, Failing to Flop, and Crying at Refs. This one might be better left alone. tweeted conservative podcaster Cabot Phillips (@cabot_phillips).
James isn’t the first celebrity to join the bandwagon. However, it could be asked if he and others are credible on these issues.
Mollica said that there are many celebrities, including athletes and actors who feel the need for their opinions. People will often follow celebrity tweets and likes blindly. Many people will ignore this, however.
In this case, James’ opinion likely won’t matter, even as plenty of celebrities weigh-in where they think they have an opinion – one that certainly isn’t educated in the least.
Mollica said that Mollica has seen many celebrities have to retract what they post on social media.
Professor Menchen-Trevino concluded by saying that not every case gets the same amount of attention on social media. Many are not noticed. For the public, many prefer to turn it off.”