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Facebook, Google promote politicised fake news about Las Vegas shooter

October 3, 2017

Facebook and Google reportedly promoted false news stories claiming that the Las Vegas shooter was a Democrat who opposed US President Donald Trump, on Monday.

The misidentification spread rapidly from corners of the internet to mainstream platforms just hours after hundreds were injured at a festival near the Mandalay Bay casino, the latest example of fake news polluting social media amid a breaking news story, reports The Guardian. 

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This misinformation showed a grim trend that has increasingly dominated viral online propaganda during US mass shootings – hyper-partisan trolls battling to blame the tragedy on opposing political ideologies.

Police later identified Stephen Paddock as the suspect who opened fire from a hotel room, killing over 58 people and injuring hundreds more. But before authorities named the 64-year-old Nevada man, some on the far right falsely identified the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history as Geary Danley.

It’s unclear where exactly the hoax originated, but right-wing users aggressively promoted his name, seizing on evidence that he was a liberal.

On 4chan, some noted that Danley was a registered Democrat. Soon after, Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy-laden blog that earned White House credentials under Trump, published an evidence-free story which said, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, and Associated with Anti-Trump Army”.

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Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have faced repeated accusations that they allow propaganda to spread on their sites and reach large audiences, and in the wake of embarrassing stories of promoting fake news and offensive content, the tech corporations have typically blamed their algorithms and offered vague pledges of improvement.

The Mandalay Bay shooting was no exception. Google said in a statement, “Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Facebook attempted to downplay its role in promoting false stories, saying in a statement, “Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them. However, their removal was delayed, allowing them to be screen captured and circulated online. We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused.”

This article originally appeared on The Guardian. 

The post Facebook, Google promote politicised fake news about Las Vegas shooter appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Source: Tribune News
Original Post: Facebook, Google promote politicised fake news about Las Vegas shooter

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