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After Las Vegas shooting, Facebook and Google get the news wrong again

03 Octobre 2017

Perhaps the most egregious strain of misinformation took hold after far-right trolls gathered on 4chan, a forum in which individuals are permitted to post nearly anything anonymously, and, through some amateur online sleuthing, misidentified the shooter.

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. "Per a review of his Facebook account, he was a fan of Rachel Maddow, People's Action, Democrats, MoveOn.org, etc..."

Other websites published similar claims which were then amplified by Google. Google searches for the phrase "Geary Danley" returned a link to a 4chan thread labeling the man a unsafe leftist - a link that sat untouched for hours until the platform's algorithm eventually bumped it.

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.

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"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 wrote in an emailed statement.

"This should not have appeared for any queries", a Google spokesperson said, adding that the company would aim to prevent it from happening again. Many posts blast news reports from outlets such as The New York Times and the Las Vegas Review-Journal as "fake news" or pushing a "commie" agenda. As Fast Company first reported, that included a link to a sketchy blog called "Alt Right News".

Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. But because that removal was "delayed", the company said, images of the incorrect story were captured and circulated online. "We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused". 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.

Last month, Facebook announced that it would release previously undisclosed Russia-linked political ads to congressional and federal investigators and would continue to investigate how its platform was used during the 2016 presidential campaign to spread political information.

After Las Vegas shooting, Facebook and Google get the news wrong again