Far-right bloggers blame innocent man for Las Vegas shooting

Oct 03, 2017, 07:59
Far-right bloggers blame innocent man for Las Vegas shooting

The Oct. 2 post from Gateway Pundit, which got White House press credentials in February, was headlined, "Las Vegas shooter reportedly a Democrat who liked Rachel Maddow, Moveon.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army".

A search for the man's name now mostly turns up stories debunking the misinformation.

In a statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson said the link to 4chan was algorithmically removed within several hours of it appearing in search results for some users. Police have since correctly identified Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old from Mesquite, Nevada, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the incident, as the shooter.

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In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas Sunday, people desperate for information about loved ones turned to Google to find out what was happening, only to see their searches yield fake news results, courtesy of 4Chan. Twitter coughed up false rumors and "missing" people who weren't connected to the slaughter.

A shooter opened fire October 1 on a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing at least 58 people, and injuring hundreds more. Users of 4chan had named the shooter as Geary Danley, and Google - in response to queries using Danley's name - surfaced into its "Top Stories" section a 4chan message board identifying him as the gunman. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", the firm told Fast Company. "We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused".

"Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries", Google said in a statement. The first link, to a site called mytodaytv.com, appears to have uploaded someone else's video of the shooting to YouTube (the description says the video "may contain copyrighted material"), and embedded it on the site.

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Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media giants have, for almost a year, resisted taking responsibility for the proliferation of false information online, in part, experts have speculated, to dodge regulation and government oversight.

On Monday morning, Google used its news feed to promote threads from 4chan, an online forum that's a popular source of disinformation campaigns.

Some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have become increasingly concerned about the ability for tech platforms be unwittingly or purposefully co-opted into perpetuating fake news.

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Google, for its part, didn't do much better than Facebook.

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