Google, Facebook help spread bad info after Las Vegas attack

Posted October 04, 2017

On Sunday night, a gunman killed more than 50 people at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Twitter coughed up false rumors and "missing" people who weren't connected to the slaughter.

Various reports have suggested that Facebook's over-reliance on algorithms to differentiate between real and fake news has been its undoing.

The death toll has now risen to 59 with over 500 injured after suspected lone gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from a hotel room window.

Google search results related to the name of the man wrongly identified as the killer prominently displayed a post from the online forum 4chan - where users were asserting links between him and the Democrats and left-wing political news websites.

The spread of misinformation remains a huge problem for large platforms like Facebook and Google, which rely on algorithms to push the most engaged stories to the top. It's unclear what relationship Geary Danley has with Marilou Danley, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His liked pages reportedly included Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org, and a group called the Anti-Trump Army. Google said the 4chan page shouldn't have appeared in any of its top search results, and the story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results within hours.

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The incident highlights yet again how news and social-media algorithms created to help surface the best information can fall short in the hours after a major incident, when few factual details are readily available because authorities have yet to confirm or release them. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future", a spokesperson told Bloomberg.

But the less-than-reliable news circulating in the aftermath of the Las Vegas attack didn't stop with Google.

"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them".

Black Bear Diner said the post has since been deleted. 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", Fast Company quoted the social media giant as saying.