Misinformation Spreads Widely After Las Vegas Shooting

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After the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, there was a spate of false proclamations and conspiracy theories, emanating from the darkest corners of the internet and the likes of Alex Jones, 4chan and Reddit, Politico reports. Monday morning began with Gateway Pundit publishing a story that fingered the wrong suspect in the shooting, which it then retracted. From the depths of 4chan there were posts that tied Paddock to the anti-Trump Antifa (short for antifascist) movement and a fake Antifa Twitter account that praised the shooting. There were 4chan commenters claiming the number of victims was fabricated—as well as the number of shooters. Jones, the conspiracy monger who has asserted the Newtown school massacre was staged. Jones tied Paddock, the 64-year-old retiree, to ISIS—seizing on an unconfirmed report from the terrorist group—and, remarkably, to a Communist takeover of the country. “It’s the October Revolution, that stretched into November and December,” he declared “It’s the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. We’re here. It’s happening now. This is real.”

As details trickled out about Paddock’s past (gambling habits, grumpy encounters with neighbors, his father’s bank robbery spree) and his heartbreaking rampage, journalists embarked on what has become a familiar mission after breaking events: Debunking the rumors and deliberate falsehoods that were already reaching viral strength before many people on the East Coast had even heard there was a shooting. Compounding the problem, platforms like Facebook and Google were promoting “trending” news stories from Russian propaganda outlets like Sputnik and returning search results for the very story that Gateway Pundit retracted. “Unfortunately, I don’t see anything different with the Vegas shooting versus what we saw after Nice or Paris,” said Alexios Mantzarlis of Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. “All of these shootings seem to me to generate the same amount of fake crap.”

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