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Google admits citing 4chan to spread fake Vegas shooter news

03 October 2017

Users on the message board site 4chan identified the wrong man as the suspect in the deadliest mass shooting in the country's history.

Facebook also creates a dedicated page where users can check in on friends in the affected area and see breaking news.

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.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have spent the last several weeks insisting that they are committed to stopping the spread of misinformation and malicious speech on their platforms. That includes not just fake news but screenshots of fake news that's been debunked, and that's already been circulated to an untold number of people.

Within minutes of the incorrect identification of the terrorist, headlines began to pop up from right-wing posters such as "The Shooter Was an Alt-left Anti-Trumper Extremist".

Gateway Pundit is run by Republican supporters and is known for falling for false stories.

Facebook admitted Monday that its system automatically promoted stories that falsely identified the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre.

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The Gateway Pundit article made it on Facebook's crisis response page about the shooting, which Facebook now "deeply regrets".

And other users like far-right provocateur Laura Loomer went viral on Twitter stoking speculation that Islamic terror groups were responsible for the shooting.

The companies on Monday issued statements blaming the results on algorithmic miscalculations - the result of companies moving away from human moderators to rely on machines and artificial intelligence.

Facebook said its security staff had seen the post and removed it.

The Gateway Pundit ― a right-wing blog that routinely traffics in disinformation but has received White House press credentials from the Trump administration ― identified the suspect as "Geary Danley", a name that had previously been circulating on 4chan.

Google says that despite the mistake it was only visible "for a small number of queries" and that it had been eventually "algorithmically replaced" by more relevant results. That article's URL was still the top result for Danley's name on Google in the early hours of Monday morning. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make improvements to prevent this from happening in the future".

The boosting of misinformation comes at a bad time for both Google and Facebook.

Google admits citing 4chan to spread fake Vegas shooter news