Google spread Las Vegas shooting hoaxes. Did you spot any?

Las Vegas shooting

Google spread Las Vegas shooting hoaxes. Did you spot any?

News and Politics

Google spread Las Vegas shooting hoaxes. Did you spot any?

The real news is horrific enough. More than 500 injured and 59 dead. We’re still learning about the lives taken by gunman Stephan Craig Paddock.

stephen paddock AP provided by brother

Undated photo of Stephen Paddock provided by his brother, Eric Paddock. Credit: AP

But weaved in with legit news, among social media feeds, is misinformation about the shooter, the missing and the wounded, the gunman’s identity and the reasoning behind the shooting.

The fake news gained traction online, and Google even promoted some of the misinformation. Google issued a statement Tuesday saying it was working to “make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Sadly, one Twitter troll told Mashable that he posted a picture of his “missing dad” (actually a porn star photo) amid the carnage of the Las Vegas shooting simply “for the retweets. :)” His Twitter account has since been suspended.

So there’s that.

Did you see any of those hoaxes floating around online?

False shooter claims

A man named Samir Al-Hajeed (or Samir Al-Hajib) was identified as the gunman responsible for the Las Vegas shooting. But it was comedian Sam Hyde’s picture who was circulated in this photo. Hyde also has been falsely accused in the wake of the San Bernardino and UCLA shootings. (Some social media user’s pointed out that the Samir name is a variation of Hyde’s name.)

The 4chan website falsely identified the shooter as Geary Danley. The message board site titled the story: “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Likes Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army.”

Conservative writer Joe Hoft, published and then retracted an article based on 4chan, which became a top story on Google before it was deemed a hoax.

Not among the missing

Look closely at some of the photos circulating online and you might recognize a porn star, a murder suspect or a pro athlete.

One guy claimed his brother was stuck in the hotel and posted a picture. But Twitter users called out @pumaexiliado for using the same photo claiming it was another person at other times. Who is he actually? A suspect connected to a murder case in Mexico.

This is professional Belgian soccer player Eden Hazard, who has NOT been listed among the missing or wounded.

Many of those posting hoaxes for missing relatives have had their Twitter and Instagram accounts suspended.

Is there any easy way to spot hoaxes? Not always. But consider this: the fake posts looked similar in nature in that they contained multiple hashtags, were often written in all caps and were frequently followed by a plug for their own personal or business accounts.

‘All going to die’

A viral story from a witness at the Las Vegas shooting got mixed in with a story about police wanting to talk to a woman named Marilou Danley.  The witness told reporters that in the minutes before the shooting, a woman and her boyfriend — who eventually got kicked out of the concert — told concert goers they were “all going to die.”

Regarding Marilou Danley, police wanted and eventually did talk to her because she and Paddock lived at the same address. Somehow the the story of the woman who told concert goers they were going to die and Danley got mixed up and turned into a viral tale of their own after the shooting.

Spot the fake

How do you spot the fake news?

NPR has a detailed story on how to spot a fake news story online.

But here are a few best practices.

  • Check the URL. Abcnews.com is legit. abcnews.com.co, probably not.
  • Read the “About us” section. The information should be straightforward about the organization’s mission and ethics. If it’s melodramatic or overblown, be skeptical.
  • Look at the quotes: Who is saying what? Does this person have credentials?

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