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

Mandy Carr
October 4, 2017

Las Vegas police say Stephen Craig Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired down on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern USA history.

Early Monday morning, police identified Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old Las Vegas resident, as the man suspected of opening fire from the Mandala Bay Resort & Casino late Sunday night, killing more than 50 people and injuring 400 others.

4chan's users quickly turned their attention to Geary Danley-the apparent the husband of Marilou, according to an archived version of a Facebook page belonging to a user named Geary Danley-though the name was not directly mentioned by law enforcement.

In Google's "Top Stories" section, which features breaking news stories based on search queries at the top of the page, the first recommended link led to one of the 4Chan boards that wrongly identified the shooter. His liked pages reportedly included Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org, and a group called the Anti-Trump Army. A profile of Danley put together on Everipedia, a Wikipedia-style site with much looser guidelines and moderation.

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Google was also found wanting during the crisis, with its search results promoting at one point a 4chan thread filled with lies about "Geary Danley".

The search results below the top stories did little to help clarify the situation. We have reached out to Google for comment. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future", a spokesperson told Bloomberg. They also got a number of news posts from highly questionable sources.

The rampant dissemination of misinformation comes as Facebook, Google and Twitter face intense scrutiny over fake news on their websites with each rolling out measures to deal with the issue. But because that removal was "delayed", the company said, images of the incorrect story were captured and circulated online.

Among those falsely stated to be missing in Las Vegas were a German pro soccer player, a murder suspect from Mexico and a male porn star - whose pictures were apparently plucked from the internet. Several accounts pointed the finger at an "Islamic convert" who is actually a comedian beloved by the far right.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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