Rose Furigay, the former mayor of the city of Lamitan in the Philippines, was attending her daughter’s graduation when she died on July 24. A man shot and killed her and two others at the graduation ceremony at the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Law. The shooting suspect was quickly identified as Chao Tiao Yumol, a doctor from Lamitan and microinfluencer who used his verified profile on Facebook—where he had about 60,000 followers at the time of the shooting—to discuss politics, including his support of former president Rodrigo Duterte and current president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., as well as his ongoing grievances with the Furigay family.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, Yumol’s Facebook page gained nearly 13,000 new followers, according to reports from local outlet Rappler, and it became a hub of comments, many from people praising the shooting or sympathizing with Yumol’s decision. When Rappler reached out to Meta three days after the shooting, the page was taken down. But content from other influencers, as well as regular users praising, supporting, and justifying Yumol, has continued to circulate on TikTok, YouTube, and to a lesser extent Facebook, exposing how social media companies continue to struggle with how to respond to violent extremism.

Police say the shooting was a culmination of a “personal” grudge. In 2019, when Yumol’s clinic was shuttered by the regional government for operating without a license, he blamed then-mayor Furigay, even though it was the regional government, not her local government, that handed down the decision. In response, Yumol accused Furigay of being involved in corruption and the drug trade, particularly salient claims after six years of Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, which left thousands dead in extrajudicial killings. These were claims he repeated on his Facebook page and in interviews with the media.

“When Facebook left his page up for a day or two after the shooting, people were able to go back to all his videos and old accusations, and they were able to magnify the narrative that he is a whistleblower, or this small community doctor going against this big local politician family,” says JM Lanuza, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, who studies misinformation on TikTok. “We saw platforms take swift action regarding pro-Russia accounts when the Ukraine conflict started. But you don’t see that same sense of urgency with political content or developing countries like the Philippines.” This means that disinformation actors’ content remains on these sites, he says.

In 2020, when Kyle Rittenhouse, a white American teenager, shot and killed two people at a Black Lives Matter protest, Meta said it would remove content celebrating the death of the victims. When Rittenhouse was acquitted, however, the company reversed its decision, saying it would “no longer remove content containing praise or support of Rittenhouse.”

Though Lanuza noted that Yumol was on the “fringe” of the influencers who support Duterte and Marcos, he was amplified by other accounts—including one major influencer, a Los Angeles-based Filipina who goes by the name Maharlika and has 935,000 followers on Facebook. Another page with 14,000 followers, called “Ilonggo ako Duterte ako,” described Yumol as “brave.”

Maharlika also runs a YouTube channel with more than 400,000 followers. An interview she conducted with Yumol six months ago remains up, and praise and prayers for the doctor continue in the comments section.

The problem, says Fatima Gaw, an assistant professor and researcher at the University of the Philippines who coleads the Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratory, is that most platforms “are only regulating these actors on a content basis, and then a case by case basis.” Taking one or two pieces of content down doesn’t really affect an influencer’s status. “They don’t lose followers,” says Gaw. “They stay influential.”

Screenshots of posts from Yumol’s personal influencer page and his professional page highlighting his work as a doctor continue to circulate on TikTok and YouTube and are shared on Facebook, despite the fact that Meta has since removed both pages.

WIRED was able to easily find over 16 TikTok videos reframing Yumol as a compassionate doctor, a victim, and “brave.” One TikTok video that was shared more than 200 times and garnered more than 800 likes described Yumol as a “whistleblower,” and used screenshots of photos from his Facebook page, taken before it was removed. Another video entitled “The Real Dr. Chao Tiao Yumol” shows him eating pizza, sitting quietly, and serving poor families. In the comments users offered their prayers for the shooter, asking for the government to help him, and even calling him a hero. Splices of Maharlika’s YouTube videos have also been made into TikToks, or shared on Facebook.

Gaw says because the platforms don’t coordinate with one another about the actors and content that violate their policies, it can extend the life of a particular narrative and allow it to reach more people. “It’s really one narrative and you can translate it to many forms across platforms, and it exists as one big story. ​​That kind of strategy is used to circumvent moderation,” she says.

Popular trends like reaction videos, which can repurpose content and make it harder for moderation systems to identify, can also help content live on, says Jonathan Corpus Ong, associate professor of global digital media at the University of Massachusetts. “I saw that some of the original videos are not there anymore, but I’ve found recordings of the original taken by somebody recording on their phone,” says Ong. “Even if a platform tries to scrub the content, a couple days after the original upload it could still be re-uploaded in various forms.”

TikTok, Meta, and YouTube all have policies that prevent content related to violent extremism, but when it comes to content that sympathizes with an attacker, Gaw says, many policies enter a gray area.

“The trend is that the platforms only adjust their policies based on events like this,” says Gaw. “Facebook says, ‘We have a policy and we will take down content that glorifies violence.’ But it is still unclear how this is operationalized, and that’s the biggest problem. So what counts as content that glorifies violence? What parts were taken down already? We don’t know.”

Meta did not respond to questions about why it had initially verified Yumol’s account or why influencers like Maharlika, whose pages promoted sympathy for the doctor, remained live on the site. Meta has removed posts related to the incident, including a post shared by Maharlika of a handwritten note from Yumol. Ben Rathe, a spokesperson for TikTok, told WIRED that it is “removing content that glorifies this individual or his actions, in line with our violent extremism policies.”

YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon told WIRED that the platform removes “content that praises or glorifies perpetrators of major violent events, including the perpetrator of the horrific shooting at the Ateneo de Manila University,” in line with its Community Guidelines. One of the videos flagged by WIRED has since been removed, but the Maharlika interview with Yumol remains up.

But Ong says that although platforms have been too slow to act, a large part of the blame lies with a media ecosystem unaccustomed to covering such attacks.

“When it comes to these kind of armed vigilante attacks here in the US, the mainstream media exercise caution around how not to humanize them, to focus on the stories of the victims and their families,” says Ong. By contrast, many Philippine outlets showed footage of Yumol speaking about his motivations, which has made its way into social media content.

And though every expert that spoke to WIRED emphasized that Yumol’s support of Duterte and Marcos cannot be framed as a cause or motivation for violence, Ong noted that the way Yumol and his supporters have framed his narrative resonates with the one that Duterte helped popularize. “It’s a story that connects with the angry populist sentiments of well-meaning, ordinary people, supposedly, who suffer from elite, powerful politicians,” he says. “And that is a story that is part of the dramatic narrative that former President Duterte himself stoked.”