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Fake News During the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas

Fake news is growing to be a rampant phenomenon, intentionally sensationalizing issues and topics to mislead the public and undermine the credibility of serious media coverage. Over the past decades, extremists publish articles with inflammatory headlines as a clickbait for readers, often targeting the most vulnerable people on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Even when check and balance mechanisms eventually bring justice to these posts, the false information has already rippled across around the globe, wreaking havoc on our increasingly globalized society.

Already, a tragic massacre in Las Vegas illustrates such trending monstrosity in our social networking sites.

Falsely spread by mainly Facebook, the public was shocked to find out that the gunman found responsible for the shooting in Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock, was an anti-Trump liberal who happened to have converted to Islam and was connected to the notorious terrorist organization, the Islamic State.

The reason behind such rumor and inefficiency of online platforms according to Bill Hartzer, an expert on search, was that “Google has not had the time to really vet the search results yet…So what they’ll do is they will show what they know about this particular name or this particular keyword.”

Preying on the suffering and anger of the American citizens and the desperation of the citizens to immediately get ahold of any information regarding the tragedy, “hyper-partisan trolls” politicized the shootings by quickly attributing the blame on their opposing political party: the liberals. The online abuse of right-wing users manipulating the SNS algorithms to promote a hoax degrading opposite political ideologies is just one out of numerous instances. Not only was Facebook bombarded with illegitimate identifications of the perpetrator, other Youtube and Twitter accounts spread rumors that the suspect is a Hillary Clinton supporter intended to murder Trump’s followers. 

“It’s getting more polarized. There’s this mad scramble to paint the guy as a Democrat or a Republican, so they can cheer,” said Brooke Binkowski, an editor of Snopes, a fact-checking website. Despite the fact that Stephen Paddock has no clear political affiliations, false rumors trended all over people’s feeds, leading all into a world of fabrication and propaganda.

Acknowledging the imperative role social media plays in national emergencies or crises, Google and Facebook both apologized for their mistakes noting that their companies will “continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.” More concrete measures have to be implemented in filtering out non credible sources from the start and weighing in value more renowned and reputable ones. Until that happens, we should all actively participate in spreading the malicious effects of fake news through media outlets and contribute in cracking down on fake websites or posts to bring justice.

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