Speed Reads

the kyle rittenhouse trial

The role social media is playing in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial

America has long been obsessed with true crime, and the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, on trial after allegedly killing two individuals and wounding another during 2020 racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wis., is no exception, reports The Washington Post.

As the 18-year-old's future is determined, social media users are "watching live streams of testimony and flooding TikToks and Facebook Lives with comments about his fate, the judge and the legal teams," writes the Post

On TikTok, the latest true-crime entrant competing for eyes, the hashtags #rittenhouse and #rittenhousetrial have garnered 88.8 million and 6.1 million views, respectively, with news outlets and "armchair trial watchers" offering commentary.

Meanwhile, an ABC News live stream from Thursday drew in more than 14,000 viewers.

"It's really a case of old wine and new bottles," Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU School of Law, told the Post.

"Not every trial gets this year of social media attention," claimed Erika Menchen-Trevino, an assistant professor at American University.

Brightening the spotlight are the trial's many viral moments thus far, on which personalities and news outlets have been likely to weigh in. For example, when Rittenhouse appeared to break down in tears on the witness stand, basketball star Lebron James called it all an act. Meanwhile, Judge Bruce Schroeder has received his own share of headlines following what some have called off-color comments during the proceedings.

Otherwise, Rittenhouse has seen some online support, including from prominent conservatives.

Though jury members are barred from consuming outside media about ongoing trials, prolific online discourse certainly complicates things for them. "It just becomes harder when the social media discussions enter the picture," said Giller.

The trial's closing remarks began Monday, not long after Schroeder dismissed a count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, a misdemeanor prosecutors had thought the likeliest to "net a conviction," per The Associated Press