Las Vegas shooting exposes tenacity of fake news on Google and Facebook

Tomas Mccoy
October 4, 2017

50 people have died and more than 200 are injured after the deadliest mass shooting in United States history took place on Sunday night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On Facebook's dedicated "Safety Check" page for the Las Vegas massacre-which says it lets users "connect with friends and family and find and give help after a crisis"-one of the top stories earlier today was from a Blogspot titled "Alt-Right News". It's unclear what relationship Geary Danley has with Marilou Danley, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"4chan" is well-known as a haven for racists, misogynists and conspiracy theorists and was also the source of 2008 fake news that Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack - a falsity that nonetheless knocked $5 billion off of Apple's stock value in a single morning, the report noted. It described him as someone thought to be "a Democrat who liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org, and associated with the anti-Trump army".

Authorities identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Nevada, but Google initially had surfaced a result from sleazy online forum 4chan identifying the killer as someone else.

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

Facebook, Google and Twitter, said they were working on fixes after learning of fake news ending up in feeds and searches following the shooting that killed 59 and injured over 500 people.

Google later acknowledged that it had been briefly surfacing an inaccurate "4chan" website in its Search results for a small number of queries. Alt-Right News on October 2 theorized that the actual shooter, Paddock, was probably a "left-wing nutjob" associated with a woman who "may or may not be a Muslim".

"The 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results". But because that removal was "delayed", the company said, images of the incorrect story were captured and circulated online.

Twitter said it too was stepping up efforts to weed out false reports on the shooting.

The false claim spread quickly on the Internet.

There were also several social media users who spread fake "missing friends" photos on Twitter, including the fake Twitter account Jack Sins, who shared a photo of a man claiming to be his missing father.

Other reports by VideoGamingPros

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