Facebook admits it promoted fake Vegas massacre stories

How far-right trolls named the wrong man as the Las Vegas shooter

Facebook and Google have been criticised for promoting false news stories claiming that the shooter who killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump.

What they were presented with, in some cases, was misinformation.

Among those falsely stated to be missing in Las Vegas were a German pro soccer player, a murder suspect from Mexico and a male porn star - whose pictures were apparently plucked from the internet. Far-right website Gateway Pundit also published a story with the headline: "Last Vegas Shooter reportedly a Democrat who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army".

In its "Top Stories" section, a space that features breaking stories on search queries and is located at the top of the page, Google's first recommended link was to one of the 4chan boards in which the wrong person was blamed for the massacre.

"Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our search results for a small number of queries", a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

This morning they told The Atlantic they took down the 4chan Google hits "within hours".

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"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 said.

Despite increased efforts this year to tamp down the spread of fake news and hoaxes on their platforms, both Google and Facebook have long ways to go in solving the issue as the tragic shooting in Las Vegas over the weekend uncovered. The Safety Check can be used to see who in an area affected by a violent event, such as a mass shooting or a natural disaster, has marked themselves as safe. As Fast Company first reported, that included a link to a sketchy blog called "Alt Right News".

"However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", Facebook said.

Both Google and Facebook seem to have acted fast to fix the problem here. U.S. lawmakers are also investigating the role their platforms inadvertently played in Russia's alleged campaign to influence the 2016 USA presidential election.

Senators heavily criticized Twitter for failing to dig deep enough in its investigation into Russian activity on the site prior to the United States presidential election, while Facebook is expected to share thousands of divisive ads bought between 2015 and 2017 by Russia-linked accounts.

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