Facebook and Politifact Under Fire for Fact Check in Rittenhouse Gun Charge
“…What is equally concerning is how Facebook intervened early to flag the questioning the charge and how Politifact declared such questions as “false” worthy of its “pants on fire” rating.“
The progress of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has led to a great deal of criticism of the coverage of the mainstream media, which continues to downplay the weaknesses in the case.
Yesterday, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the sixth charge in the case. I recently wrote a column stating that the sixth count appeared to be based on a factually and legally inapplicable provision of Wisconsin law.
I was mystified how the prosecutors could even secure the count in the first place.
What is equally concerning is how Facebook intervened early to flag the questioning the charge and how Politifact declared such questions as “false” worthy of its “pant on fire” rating.
What is most striking about the controversy is that it was started with just one random Facebook user on Aug. 27, 2020, writing “Carrying a rifle across state lines is perfectly legal, adding “Based on the laws I can find of this area at 17 years old Kyle was perfectly legal to be able to possess that rifle without parental supervision.”
Facebook then flagged the statement “as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed.” It went to PolitiFact’s Daniel Funke who declared it as presumptively untrue.
“The Wisconsin Department of Justice honors concealed carry permits issued in Illinois. But Rittenhouse did not have a permit to begin with, and he was not legally old enough to carry a firearm in Wisconsin …. Whether Rittenhouse violated Wisconsin law by possessing a firearm underage is the subject of ongoing litigation. But the Facebook post claimed that it was “perfectly legal” for the teenager to carry an assault-style rifle in Kenosha. At best, that’s unproven. At worst, it’s inaccurate. Either way, we rate the post False.”
The sixth count alleged the possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. Under state law, minors are prohibited from such possession and this can constitute a Class A misdemeanor that carries a basic sentence of up to nine months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
The problem is that the provision was facially inapplicable to this case.
Defendants are guilty of this offense if they possess a short-barreled rifle under Section 941.28. However, the prosecutors never put into evidence that this was a short-barreled weapon. Indeed, a police officer testified it was not. Rittenhouse used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 with an advertised barrel length of 16 inches and the overall length is 36.9 inches. That is not a short barrel.