Facebook and Google promote politicized fake news about Las Vegas shooter

Facebook and Google promoted false news stories claiming that the shooter who killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump. The misidentification spread rapidly from dark corners of the internet to mainstream platforms just hours after hundreds were injured at a festival near the Mandalay Bay casino, the latest example of fake news polluting social media amid a breaking news story.

The flow of misinformation on Monday illustrated a particularly grim trend that has increasingly dominated viral online propaganda during US mass shootings – hyper-partisan trolls battling to blame the tragedy on opposing political ideologies.

On 4chan, the anonymous message board and a favorite platform of the “alt-right”, some noted that Danley was a registered Democrat. Soon after, Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy-laden blog that earned White House credentials under Trump, published an evidence-free story headlined, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army”. The piece was based on a review of Facebook “likes”.

Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.

The rightwing users’ successful manipulation of social media algorithms to politicize a tragedy speaks to a relatively new pattern of online abuse. While users of Twitter and Reddit memorably misidentified the suspect behind the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, fake news during global tragedies and terrorist attacks over the last year has increasingly gone beyond careless reporting and retweeting to overt exploitation and targeted disinformation campaigns.

“It’s getting more polarized. There’s this mad scramble to paint the guy as a Democrat or a Republican, so they can cheer,” Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of fact-checking website Snopes.com, said in an interview. “A lot of this is pushed by trolls deliberately to muddy the conversation.”

False content can quickly move from social media to legitimate news sources, she added: “People are putting out crap information on purpose … It’s really easy to get shit into the news cycle by being on Twitter.”

On the flipside, some conservatives on Twitter have theorized that leftwing social media users have attempted to falsely paint Paddock as a rightwing individual. Some have speculated that liberals are posing as white nationalists and Trump supporters and following a Twitter account that has the same name as the suspect, in hopes of proving he is a conservative.

In reality, the suspect had no known “affiliations” that could explain the massacre, according to one of his brothers, who spoke out on Monday.

Beyond the politically charged fake news, a wide range of hoaxes and irresponsible reporting clouded social media on Monday. A number of viral tweets posted fake accounts of missing victims, according to BuzzFeed.

Some celebrities were also quick to spread unverified claims before police had offered any official confirmation of the basic facts of the shooting. Sia, a pop singer and songwriter with 3.2 million followers on Twitter, posted that 20 people were dead before police had released details on the number of casualties, adding, “take cover there are multiple shooters on the loose”.

Police have said there were no other suspects.

Source: This Guardian newspaper article.

 

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Trump’s dinner party a bust

 Donald Trump will be attending his first White House correspondents’ dinner as president. ‘There will be minimal celebrities in that room,’ said one media executive. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images


Donald Trump will be attending his first White House correspondents’ dinner as president. ‘There will be minimal celebrities in that room,’ said one media executive. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The White House correspondents’ dinner is a fixture of the Washington scene, a spring event at which the cream of political journalism shares bonhomie, fine food and comedy roasting with the politicians it reports on – including the president. Under Donald Trump, however, the dinner is facing uncertainty.

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked “the very dishonest press” and accused leading news outlets of peddling “fake news” about him, is expected nonetheless to attend the dinner, at the Washington Hilton on 29 April.

Many news outlets, however, are planning to give the event a miss. The New York Times has not sent journalists to the dinner since 2008. The Guardian, which normally attends, will not be represented there this year. Jeff Mason, a Reuters journalist and president of the WHCA, has been obliged to confirm that the event will happen.

Celebrities are also choosing to spend the night elsewhere. Actors from the casts of TV political drama shows such as House of Cards, Veep and Scandal, for example, have attended in recent years. They are not expected to be present this time. And according to the Hollywood Reporter, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) has yet to secure a comedy headliner.

One comedian, Samantha Bee, will be dining on Washington on the night of 29 April. The Full Frontal host will be debuting what she declines to call a rival party, even though it is titled Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and is being held on the same night at the historic Willard Hotel, a block away from the White House.

Over the years, the dinner has spawned a number of receptions and after-parties. Some of those are now being cancelled or losing co-hosts. Vanity Fair, for example, has pulled out of co-hosting a prestigious after-party, leaving Bloomberg to go it alone. The New Yorker has cancelled its curtain-raiser. It is reportedly unclear if MSNBC will hold its own traditional after-party, while ABC and Yahoo, which have previously co-hosted a pre-dinner reception, have not confirmed if they will do so this year.

Whoever is eventually named as master of ceremonies for the dinner will have a chance to tease, needle or even roast the president, as Stephen Colbert famously did to a not-very amused George W Bush in 2006. And Trump will get a chance to reply in kind.

He may see a chance for revenge. Famously, in 2011 Barack Obama and TV host Seth Meyers roasted a stone-faced Trump, a guest at the dinner who was also a key champion of the widely debunked “birther” movement, which claimed Obama was not born in the US and thus ineligible to be president.

His audience may lack familiar faces. In the past, stars such as Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and the cast of Game of Thrones have been guests at the sprawling, ticketed dinner in the Hilton ballroom, which seats 2,670. This year, an unnamed Washington media executive was quoted as saying: “There will be minimal celebrities in that room … it’s going to be difficult to get any talent there.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

Celebrity pic

Since my interview, I’ve been asked by multitudes of people – 3 actually – for an autographed picture of the now famous raconteur.

Here it is:

Mr. Wonderful, Ted Summerfield

Famous raconteur Ted Summerfield