Yesterday a gunman opened fire on civilians at a concert in Las Vegas. So far the death toll sits at 59 people with 527 people injured according to reports.
The shooting is being called the worst in modern history and sadly it became a breeding ground for misinformation.
Shortly after the attack Facebook and Google began serving news about the attack but that news appears to have come from less than reliable sources including 4chan.
Among the “fake news” circulating on Facebook was an article off of The Gateway Pundit – a well known source of fake news. The article claimed that the Las Vegas shooter was a Democrat associated with the “Anti-Trump army”. This was clearly fake news.
Facebook’s Crisis Response feature was also inundated with spam and scams according to Engadget.
Google in the meantime was promoting a 4chan thread that appears to be the source of the Gateway Pundit’s story.
“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,” Google told Engadget.
Simply put Google’s algorithm failed just as it has many times before this and that isn’t good enough.
Fake news headlines lure readers in with stories that fit a particular narrative and in times of crisis these headlines can sow havoc. For instance 4chan found the name of a person linked to person of interest Marilou Danley in a dox aimed at her which led to the Gateway Pundit article.
Silicon Valley needs to do better because fake news – especially in a time of crisis – has the potential to spread like wild fire.
Perhaps it’s time Facebook and Google used their unimaginable wealth to become less reliant on an algorithmic filter and use real people alongside it to help sort the rubbish out.