By Kai Vieira da Rosa
Las Vegas witnessed the largest mass shooting in recent American history Oct 1, 2017. Within hours, hundreds of reports had been uploaded or printed to the web. Some stories contained false news that could have endangered even more people. Fake news has always been around but after the recent shooting it’s more relevant than ever.
The increase probably has to do with readers immediately posting fake stories on social media before checking if their sources are credible or not.
Sometimes the problem isn’t with the masses, but with the media itself. The release of false information from the media can be extremely dangerous for the American public. Combined with the ease of sharing a story that social media brings, and you get fake coverage similar to what was covered in the Vegas shooting.
Recent events like this show how important it is to remember if you choose to post articles on social media, check sources, be prepared, and post the truth.
After the Vegas Strip shooting, a Google search for Geary Danley brought up a fake article written by far-right conservatives as an attempt to blame liberals for the shooting.
These conservative writers searched Danley’s Facebook to confirm his liberal political stance as well as past marriages. These information was correct, but the accusations made were far from the truth. Police at the time had been looking for Danley’s ex-wife, who was assumed to be in a relation with the shooter, this was enough evidence for the far-right conservative writers on 4chan to accuse Geary Danley of the shooting.
No physical harm has come to Danley due to the false information although he has been receiving threats from multiple people.
“Our family, and our extended family, have been receiving death threats, and would like you to know social media has spun this out of control,” Danley’s daughter said in a statement regarding the accusations.
Google sometimes will “promote” exciting or relevant stories by putting them at the top of the first page of results. The false information surrounding the identity of the shooter was spread rapidly after Google promoted a 4chan message board named “Politically Incorrect” which accused Danley as the shooter.
4chan is a social media message board system where everything posted comes up anonymous.
Users don’t have to be experts in a certain field in order for their post to go viral. Any information written by whoever, true or false, can be seen by thousands.
“In this particular context had they [Google] weighed sites that were deemed credible more heavily you might not have seen that, if news sites were given some sort of preference in this context you might not have seen that.” Contributing editor at Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling said.
Even Google is guilty of not checking to see if a site is credible, but these major corporations are doing their job posting what people want to see. It’s up to the viewers to check if it’s true or not.
The problem we have today, is the masses not checking the credibility of an article. Readers are more interested in an exciting story, rather than the truth.
The spread of fake articles is at an all-time high partially due to social media platforms like Twitter, 4chan, and Facebook. Within these sites, users can share all kinds of information with the click of a button.
Stories can break on social media much faster than it takes many news companies to cover them. The problem is when a false story is breaking at such a fast rate it is hard to slow down and check for credibility, which is what happened on Facebook during the Vegas shooting.
An official “Safety Check” page was posted on Facebook to connect those effected with their families as well as provide help. The Facebook safety check posted a number of fake stories to the top of their Vegas “Safety Check” page.
In an attempt to connect the man falsely accused with liberal views, the writer of the BlogSpot post wrote the man was a fan of a liberal Political TV host Rachel Maddow.
“The top story was from a BlogSpot titled ‘Alt-Right News.’ The article describes a female person of interest and calls her husband a “Trump-hating Rachel Maddow fan,” The Fast Company reported through screenshots taken off the “Safety Check” Facebook page.
The spread of incorrect information is a major problem facing social media. But is Facebook or google really the ones to blame? The workers who run Facebook shouldn’t be held responsible, after all they’re just doing their job.
The blame is on those who “re-tweet” or “share” these fake stories on social media platforms. Citizens simply need to be more responsible about learning the truth behind the information they spread.
In terrain park skiing and snowboarding “Look before you leap” is a common phrase used in order to minimalize chaos. Maybe there should be a “study before you share” motto for reposting articles.
Fake news has been around long before President Trump popularized the term, but only now the repercussions are starting to arise. The dangers of fake news are here, and we are all living with its consequences.
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