Fake news rose to top Google, Facebook results after Las Vegas shooting

Image composite by mashable
Image composite by mashable
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03 October, 2017

The shooting in Las Vegas, which has killed at least 50 people and injured more than 400, is the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Even after police had identified Paddock, however, the alt-right conspiracy theories continued. Not long after the unfortunate event, Facebook and Google began populating news stories on their respective platforms, as they often do.

Perhaps the most egregious strain of misinformation took hold after far-right trolls gathered on 4chan, a forum in which individuals are permitted to post nearly anything anonymously, and, through some amateur online sleuthing, misidentified the shooter.

The amateur investigators who frequent 4chan's /pol (short for "politically incorrect") discussion board identified a man named Geary Danley as the shooter-a claim that was incorrect and based on primarily on political motivations rather than factual information.

Gateway Pundit is run by Republican supporters and is known for falling for false stories. The FBI said Monday that there is no evidence suggesting any connection to worldwide terrorist groups - ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not provide evidence. In a statement, the company says it will be adjusting its software to better handle such incidents in future.

"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them". Anyone who searched Google for the name of the person wrongly identified would see among the top results links to the websites that carried the false claim.

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Facebook did not respond to a follow-up question asking whether the original stories were surfaced algorithmically and then had to be replaced a human. The narrative quickly spread on Twitter. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", the firm told Fast Company.

"Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries", a Google spokesperson said.

In a statement, Facebook said, "We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused".

On Facebook and Twitter, where tweets claiming to be urgent messages about missing loved ones ran rampant, fake information can be even more hard to discern as the posts mirror legitimate cries for help.

Google, for its part, doesn't seem to understand how bad some "breaking stories" and "content" are in the context of news, especially around a terrorist attack.


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