Facebook admits to promoting fake news about the Las Vegas shooting

Leigh Mccormick
October 5, 2017

It described him as someone thought to be "a Democrat who liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org, and associated with the anti-Trump army".

They were shocking, gruesome revelations.

There's another worrying facet regarding the quick spread of this fake news regarding the Las Vegas attack.

In Google's case, trolls from 4Chan, a notoriously toxic online message board with a vocal far-right contingent, had spent the night scheming about how to pin the shooting on liberals. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley's name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.

Meanwhile, Facebook too said that its security team removed "The Gateway Pundit" results and other similar posts within minutes. The story's headline claimed, incorrectly, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had linked the shooter with the "Daesh terror group".

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are expected to testify on the Hill next month. "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 told Engadget. But the very technology that caused the platform to promote 4chan for a few hours has now been slightly altered; now, the algorithm is promoting "relevant results", not those pesky fake ones. "Yesterday our crisis page included links to articles that contained incorrect information", explained a Facebook spokesman, in a statement emailed to Fox News.

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Internet rumors and hoaxes have become a fixture of high-profile tragedies and disasters, but by allowing them to stand alongside legitimate news stories, Facebook and Google granted them extra prominence and implicit credibility. Now there's a sentence that many people never imagined they'd read on this website.

A rush to quicker judgment might be a hallmark of the 24-hour cable news cycle or online reporting in general, but marketers do not want their ads appearing next to fake or otherwise inflammatory news, as that lack of credibility can be infectious and extend to the brand.

There is also a labeling issue. But fixes that require identifying "reputable" news organizations are inherently risky because they open companies up to accusations of favoritism. This was enough to feed the confirmation bias of several social media pages and groups, which immediately spun the incident as an act of extreme left-wing violence.

"Despite months of assurances to the contrary, the internet's two largest media platforms have yet to adequately protect their systems from enabling the viral spread of misinformation", says Forbes.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media giants have, for almost a year, resisted taking responsibility for the proliferation of false information online, in part, experts have speculated, to dodge regulation and government oversight.

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