Right-wing trolls had their fun with Google and Facebook’s algorithms after the terrible events in Las Vegas this Sunday, spreading bogus conspiracy theories and claiming false news to disinform the general public.
On Sunday night, a 64-year-old man identified as Stephen Paddock killed 59 people at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Trolls from various online forums then successfully placed fake news on the top search results on Google and Facebook for almost 12 hours after the shooting.
The mischievous individuals used 4Chan and various dubious Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread the false information that a different man, who we will not name, was the gunman responsible for the terrorist attack in Las Vegas.
Soon after the killings, police stated that Marilou Danley was a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation. She was later corroborated to be Paddock’s current girlfriend, which quickly prompted the ill-motivated users to investigate her Facebook profile. The search revealed she was married to this other man until 2014.
It was reported that the alternate name that fake news spread had social media ‘likes’ and other indications that he might be a liberal, which fit like a glove for the right wing trolls’ agenda.
Concocting unsubstantiated theories out of Facebook likes, family photographs, and marital history, they went on to ‘prove’ this man was an Antifa militant who picked the Vegas event for his deadly attack because it was a country music venue filled with Trump supporters.
While the real gunman’s motives remain unknown, the alternate ‘shooter’ that the fake news proposed presented the perfect opportunity for trolls to push through their divisive narrative.
An entry on this man also appeared on the crowdsourced wiki page, Everipedia, with detailed information about his supposed political affiliations and stating as a ‘fact’ that he was the confirmed as the gunman of the Mandalay Bay Resort killings.
It has been edited since and the criminal allegations are deleted now, but his personal photos are still plastered all over the page.
The popular right-wing news site Gateway Pundit picked up these rumors as fact and went on to post an article covering the fictitious story, which at the time of writing has been pulled down. The article’s URL still managed to show up as the top result for his name on Google in the early hours of Monday morning. The headline, still visible in search results, read, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with anti-Trump Army.”
In what resembles the infamous and similarly insane “Pizzagate” episode, this man’s family has also received death threats.
A Google spokesperson provided the following statement about the mess:
“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”