Kyle Rittenhouse: YouTube struggles with hero worship

This YouTube video "Kyle Drill" has been removed
"We're going to do a so-called Kyle drill."
A man with sunglasses and an assault rifle speaks through a training course that he built on a shooting range and that is shown in a YouTube video.
The course has participants re-enact the moment when Kyle Rittenhouse shot dead three protesters in Kenosha earlier this year and killed two of them.
"This is the simulated mob," says the man.
"You're going to sit down and shoot the skater. I don't know how many shots Kyle took, but Kyle is a bad guy. So let's assume a shot, a kill."
The skater he is referring to is Anthony Huber. He was shot in the heart and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse, then 17, appeared at a protest in Kenosha after Jacob Blake was killed by police.
He carried an assault rifle and said he was there to protect property, claiming he defended himself when the fire opened. He is awaiting trial for double homicide.
This piece is not about the mass shooting itself, but what it says about YouTube and its guidelines on extremism.
The Kyle Drill video is just one of dozens of disturbing uploads we found on YouTube worshiping Rittenhouse.
Other social media companies like Facebook have strict rules about what you can and can't say about Rittenhouse. For example, Facebook has banned searches by name.
However, there are no such rules on YouTube.
"YouTube has fallen behind"
"Facebook and Twitter have acted in a much more concerted manner against content that Rittenhouse supports," says Chloe Colliver of the Institute of Strategic Dialogue.
"YouTube has fallen behind other social media companies in the US this year in its efforts to deal with extremist content and disinformation."
That last sentence is one I have heard many times about extremism on social media this year - that YouTube has a moderation problem.
The company has a set of rules that "prohibit violent or graphic content intended to shock the viewer".
"We're taking quick action to remove content flagged by our community that violates these guidelines," YouTube told the BBC.
However, the glorification of Rittenhouse on YouTube suggests that tagging the community just doesn't work.
"Kyle Rittenhouse is an inspiration to me" is the first line of a YouTube video we found. The man is holding a gun.
So we decided to show YouTube a handful of these Rittenhouse videos for comment.
First the Kyle Drill video.
This "Rittenhouse training video" was not removed
This video has been classified by YouTube as a violation of the platform's rules for the glorification of violence and has now been removed.
Another Rittenhouse training video in which a group of men do something almost identical - Rittenhouse's mass shooting at a rifle range - was not turned off, however.
Instead, YouTube decided to set an age limit.
It's hard to see why one video was removed and another left. We didn't get a response when we asked YouTube for clarification.
Next, we found a video showing Rittenhouse as a video game character on a platform game. He runs around shooting demonstrators and picking up ammunition.
A YouTube video shows Rittenhouse as a computer game character
In the end, the last "boss" is Alex Huber with his skateboard. The character shoots him and ends the level.
After showing this to YouTube, the company once again deemed it unacceptable and took it off for violating its rules of glorifying violence.
But with a video showing how to set up your gun like Rittenhouse, YouTube didn't respond or set an age limit.
Next up a song called The Kenosha Kid. This is a ballad about Rittenhouse that marks him as a hero and stands up against unruly protesters. This video violates the rules of YouTube and has been banned.
But a lot of other videos using the exact same song weren't.
Who is an American teenager charged with protest murders in Wisconsin?
Should the Wisconsin Police have used different tactics?
The US father won't play politics because of his son's shooting
Again, the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable videos is difficult to understand.
Many of the comments in these videos call Rittenhouse a hero. Others express their surprise that they are allowed on YouTube.
Of course, YouTube is a great place to monetize content too.
Benefit from Rittenhouse
The "Merch Shelf" is a way to sell goods under a YouTube video. We found pro-Rittenhouse videos selling "Free Kyle" t-shirts.
Should the people benefit from the Rittenhouse murders?
Well, YouTube said no - they removed the ads after we highlighted them.
"After review, we took action and removed the ads," it said.
The rules seem a bit arbitrary, however - as is often the case with extremist material on Big Tech's platforms.
YouTube acted quickly after the BBC notified them of these videos. However, it took a journalist to show them that this content was being sold on their own platform.
"This is another example of a trend where YouTube is lagging behind other platforms," ​​said Angelo Carusone of Media Matters.
"Yes, some pro-Rittenhouse content still comes through on Facebook, but the reason YouTube is currently a safe haven and engine for Rittenhouse content is because they just haven't even looked into it."
After going through this process with YouTube, it is unclear why some videos are left while others are removed.
In many ways, YouTube's inconsistent policies regarding Rittenhouse highlight a bigger problem with extremism in general.
There's just a ton of things on the platform that are right on the sidelines - and YouTube is struggling to define where the line is.
James Clayton is the BBC's San Francisco-based technology reporter for North America. Follow him on Twitter @ jamesclayton5

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