Google promoted 4Chan fake news on Vegas mass shooting

Image composite by mashable

Image composite by mashable

It's the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, and Facebook has turned on its "safety check" function, which is activated when a group of people are in a crisis situation, for Las Vegas.

Authorities identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64, of Nevada, but Google initially had surfaced a result from sleazy online forum 4chan identifying the killer as someone else. Mashable was able to replicate the result, but the links no longer appear in the module. As a backdrop, the ongoing Congressional investigation into Russian hacking and manipulation around the U.S. election previous year has prompted some to suggest Google, Facebook, and Twitter - among others - have not done enough to control misuse of their networks. It described him as someone thought to be "a Democrat who liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org, and associated with the anti-Trump army". Both 4chan and right-wing misinformation sites like Gateway Pundit began spreading the false name as a suspect while calling the person a "far-left loon".

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.

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"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them", a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.

There were also several social media users who spread fake "missing friends" photos on Twitter, including the fake Twitter account Jack Sins, who shared a photo of a man claiming to be his missing father. However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online.

In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas Sunday, people desperate for information about loved ones turned to Google to find out what was happening, only to see their searches yield fake news results, courtesy of 4Chan.

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The fourth was a link to a site called "Red News Here", which says on its disclaimer page that it "does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information" on the site. "Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results", Google said in a statement, as cited by Gizmodo.

Some lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have become increasingly concerned about the ability for tech platforms be unwittingly or purposefully co-opted into perpetuating fake news.

In the early hours of the morning as reports were coming in about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, some of the largest web sites in the world were distributing unverified claims about the attack.

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