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Fake News Fills Information Void in Las Vegas Shooting
03 October 2017, 08:01 | Sam Montgomery
Image google news screengrab
People tend to the wounded outside the festival ground after a gunman killed at least 50 people on Sunday in Las Vegas.
Of course, the 4chan speculation was unfounded and plain wrong, as the police identified 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock from Nevada as the shooter. But in an episode that has become sadly familiar in the immediate aftermath of such tragedies, amateur sleuths on 4chan incorrectly identified the shooter as another man-and this time Google helped signal boost their misinformation.
A 4chan message board about the Las Vegas shooting rocketed to the top of Google's Top Stories, a tool meant to draw a clearer distinction between that product and Google News, which is vetted by humans. Not long after the unfortunate event, Facebook and Google began populating news stories on their respective platforms, as they often do.
The stories claimed that the shooter was an "anti-Trump" Democrat and displayed pictures of a man who is not identified as a suspect.
The FBI said Monday that there are no apparent links between the shooting and worldwide terror groups.
"This is a good demonstration of the magnitude of the challenge that these companies are facing in combating fake news and misinformation on their platforms", a spokesperson for Sen.
"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them". Google searches for the phrase "Geary Danley" returned a link to a 4chan thread labeling the man a risky leftist - a link that sat untouched for hours until the platform's algorithm eventually bumped it. However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online.
A Twitter spokeswoman on Monday pointed to a June blog post from Colin Crowell, Twitter's vice president of public policy, government and philanthropy when asked about the false tweets cropping up on the social network.
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. Google's "Top Stories" feature uses a mix of verified news stories and Internet posts to provide breaking information. "We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen", the Facebook representative told CNN. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make improvements to prevent this from happening in the future".
But despite being patently false, write-ups naming Danley as the attacker promptly embedded themselves into Facebook and Google's algorithms.
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