After The Parkland Shooting Internet Conspiracy Theorists Sought To Shape The Aftermath

Gerald HerbertAP Images

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 people and left more than a dozen hospitalized. Since the day of the shooting, internet conspiracy theorists have flooded social networks and targeted students as crisis actors.

According to NBC News, conspiracy theories revolving around the outspoken student survivors of the mass shooting have been depicted as mouthpieces of the FBI. In addition, that they have become pawns of left-wing activist billionaire George Soros, stooges of the Democratic Party, etc.

What the NBC News report added is how quickly these claims flourished. Also, how these claims made their way onto social networks like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.

“The accusation that the students are paid ‘crisis actors’ has gained the most velocity online, trending on YouTube at one point and racking up tens of thousands of shares on Facebook. The spread of disinformation comes as Silicon Valley faces increasing pressure to crack down on propaganda and fake news.”

Elsewhere, the above analysis confirmed more than 111,000 Facebook users had shared the post that claimed these particular students were performers and were exploiting tragedies. The message was eventually taken down, even after tens of thousands of users shared it online.

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“In the post, the Facebook user included a screenshot of David Hogg, a 17-year-old Parkland survivor, from an August 2017 television news report that aired on CBS Los Angeles. He had been interviewed by a news crew about a confrontation between a lifeguard and a surfer in Redondo Beach, California. The Facebook user wrote that Hogg, who has said he was visiting Los Angeles at the time of the report, was ‘pretending.'”

YouTube was identified as part of the attack aimed at the students. Hogg was not just a target, and accused of being an actor, his name was also a top trend on YouTube search.

A spokesperson for YouTube, which is owned by Google, did confirm the video’s presence and that it had been added to the Trending section by error. They stated this video should never have appeared. YouTube, once aware of the video, removed it because the content violated their policies.

The recurring theme in this era of social media is misinformation and the spread of fake news. Even if a post, a tweet, or video is deleted, the damage is done because of the thousands of users it was able to reach. As stated by the New York Times, companies trying to crack down on messages that spread false information are having difficulty anticipating them to begin with.

“The resilience of misinformation, despite efforts by the tech behemoths to eliminate it, has become a real-time case study of how the companies are constantly a step behind in stamping out the content. At every turn, trolls, conspiracy theorists and others have proved to be more adept at taking advantage of exactly what the sites were created to do — encourage people to post almost anything they want — than the companies are at catching them.”