Las Vegas massacre: Google, Facebook, Twitter failed to curb fake news

By IANS | Published on 03 Oct 2017
HIGHLIGHTS

Google returned a search result from a shady online forum "4chan" that named the wrong man as killer, while Facebook's 'Safety Check' feature confronted users with far-right blogs that spat out false information about victims and the shooter, as per a report.

Las Vegas massacre: Google, Facebook, Twitter failed to curb fake news
Las Vegas massacre: Google, Facebook, Twitter failed to curb fake news

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Technology giants Google, Facebook and Twitter -- already facing flak for presence of false news on their platforms -- failed miserably to stop publishing fake news related to Las Vegas massacre in which at least 59 people died and over 400 injured, media reported on Tuesday.

According to a report in technology website Siliconbeat, Google returned a search result from a shady online forum "4chan" that named the wrong man as killer. "While Facebook's 'Safety Check' feature confronted users with far-right blogs that spat out false information about victims and the shooter, Twitter displayed false rumours and information about 'missing' people who were not connected to the episode," the report said.

In one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, a gunman in a high-rise hotel in Las Vegas opened fire on a huge outdoor concert festival, sending thousands of terrified survivors fleeing for cover. While authorities identified the gunman as 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, Google initially showed result from "4chan", which identified the killer as Geary Danley, into its "Top Stories" section.

"4chan" is well-known as a haven for racists, misogynists and conspiracy theorists and was also the source of 2008 fake news that Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack -- a falsity that nonetheless knocked $5 billion off of Apple's stock value in a single morning, the report noted.

Google later acknowledged that it had been briefly surfacing an inaccurate '4chan' website in its Search results for a small number of queries.

"The fake news was algorithmically replaced by relevant results within hours. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future," Google was quoted as saying in the report.

Meanwhile, Facebook's "Security Check" page -- that lets people involved with disasters and accidents post messages for friends and loved ones -- published a blog post from "Alt-Right News" that said "the killer may have been a Trump-hating American television host Rachel Maddow fan" in an apparent reference to the misidentified Danley's Facebook page. 

"Alt-Right News" theorised that the actual shooter, Paddock, was probably a "left-wing nutjob" associated with a woman who "may or may not be a Muslim", the report pointed out.

Facebook said its security staff saw the post and removed it. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it 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," Fast Company quoted the social media giant as saying. 

According to Buzzfeed, fake news regarding the incident may have its roots on Twitter, with false reports appearing within minutes of the shooting. Several accounts pointed the finger at an "Islamic convert" who is actually a comedian beloved by the far right. Then the false reports of "missing" people started popping up, Buzzfeed reported.

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 taken from the Internet.

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IANS

Indo-Asian News Service

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