Fact Check: Mark Zuckerberg Did NOT Declare Richard Jewell To Be A 'Mass Murderer' Or Ban His Defense Raising Money On Facebook

Fact Check

  • by: Alan Duke
Fact Check: Mark Zuckerberg Did NOT Declare Richard Jewell To Be A 'Mass Murderer' Or Ban His Defense Raising Money On Facebook 10 Years Early

Did Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook declare that Richard Jewell was a "mass murderer" and were efforts to raise money for Jewell's defense and family banned from social media? No, that's not true: The claim was oddly made by the lawyer who helped Jewell sue news organizations that published false accusations that the security guard was suspected of planting the backpack bomb that interrupted the 1996 Olympics. Zuckerberg, who began creation of "TheFacebook.com" while a college student in 2004, was just 12 years old when the bomb exploded in Atlanta's Olympic Park.

The claim originated from in a tweet (archived here) from the Twitter account of Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood posted on September 4, 2020. It read:

On July 27. 1996, bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, killing 1 & injuring 110. Mark Zuckerberg & Facebook declared Richard Jewell to be a "mass murderer." Efforts to raise money for Jewell's defense & family were banned on social media. Richard was innocent.

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

Twitter screenshot

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Sun Sep 6 14:15:26 2020 UTC)

Wood, who has a reputation as one of the most successful libel lawyers in the United States, represented Jewell in 1996 after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story titled "FBI SUSPECTS 'HERO' GUARD MAY HAVE PLANTED BOMB" on July 30, 1996. It was just three days after the bombing directly killed one person and wounded another 119. Until the AJC report, Jewell was being hailed as a hero for alerting police to the abandoned backpack in time to evacuate hundreds from the immediate area.

Jewell, who had been targeted as a suspect by investigators, was later cleared, but only after his name had become infamously connected to the terror attack.

Eric Robert Rudolph, a North Carolina man, pleaded guilty years later to the Olympic bombing and a series of other bomb attacks in Georgia and Alabama.

Wood's claim in September 2020 that a 12-year-old Zuckerberg banned his client from non-existent social media in 1996 is false.

(Editors' Note: Facebook is a client of Lead Stories, which is a third-party fact checker for the social media platform. On our About page, you will find the following information:

Since February 2019 we are actively part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.)

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  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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