Web giants allowed fake news to flow on Las Vegas shooting

Lena Tucker
October 4, 2017

Some rumors identified the wrong person as the shooter, others named a search for a female person of interest described as a "Trump-hating Rachel Maddow fan", referring to an MSNBC host who is a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. The site, which earned White House credentials under Trump, later deleted the story and apologised for the error.

The incorrect shooter's name, which Ars Technica will not repost to reduce any further robo-aggregated hits, began appearing on 4chan's "pol" board, which is infamous for pushing intentionally inflammatory content.

"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them", a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

The false claim spread quickly on the Internet. We have reached out to Google for comment. The 4chan result only appeared if users entered the erroneous name as a query, Google said.

Meanwhile, Facebook's "Safety Check" page, which is created to help people near an emergency inform their loved ones that they're safe, also promoted several dubious stories from right-wing news sites Gateway Pundit and Blogspot that misidentified the suspect and his motives. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online".

The incident highlights yet again how news and social-media algorithms created to help surface the best information can fall short in the hours after a major incident, when few factual details are readily available because authorities have yet to confirm or release them.

Pro-Trump accounts spent hours trying to frame left-wing activist Geary Danley for the shootings in Las Vegas, saying he was a "liberal targeting Trump supporters".

Distributors of fake news used Google and Facebook's algorithms to their advantage to spread hoaxes in the midst of the Las Vegas massacre.

Similarly, on Facebook, a "Safety Check" page the social network offers to "help connect with friends and family and find and give help after a crisis" promoted stories from the right-wing news sites Gateway Pundit and Blogspot, which "also falsely identified the suspected shooter and included misleading speculation on his motivation", says Forbes. U.S. lawmakers are also investigating the role their platforms inadvertently played in Russia's alleged campaign to influence the 2016 USA presidential election.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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