Before any official statements had been issued amid the chaos on the ground, amateur private investigators on the notorious troll website 4Chan misidentified the shooter as Geary Danley. Through both its search engine and its video platform YouTube, Google helped disseminate this misinformation far and wide.
Also, apparently Google is putting 4chan threads in their top story unit now? So, the number one hit for his name is a /pol/ thread. pic.twitter.com/OYwW6pbWvy
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) October 2, 2017
Danley’s Facebook profile showed he had liked many anti-Trump pages. 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.
The only problem was that Danley wasn’t the actual shooter.
Google and other tech giants like Facebook have prided themselves on their commitment to eradicating “fake news.” In this instance, both Google and YouTube appear to failed spectacularly in covering the worst mass shooting in modern US history, in which 59 people were killed and over 500 injured.
Links to 4Chan’s ‘pol’ (politically incorrect) message board occupied the coveted ‘Top Stories’ section of the Google search results for several hours after the shooting; a critical period in which families and loved ones of people at the venue, desperate for news, would turn to Google News for information.
Meanwhile on YouTube, top search results for Stephen Paddock – the real gunman – were already contaminated with conspiracy theories disseminated by 4Chan and amplified by Google, which painted the shooter as a “radical democrat terrorist,” who was “most likely Anti Trump extreme left.”
Both Google and YouTube have been criticized for punishing independent and alternative media, either through vigorous demonetization of content or burying certain publishers in their search results.
“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results,” Google said in a statement, as cited by Gizmodo. “This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”
RT has contacted Google for additional comment.
Vulnerabilities in Google’s top secret algorithm have been exposed multipletimesby white hat bloggers and miscreants. This latest episode, however, proves that even the biggest corporations in the world still have a long way to go before they can guarantee only authentic and verified news and information appear on their platforms.