As Vegas shooting news shows, Google and Facebook are failing you


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.

Meanwhile, Facebook has also been criticized for its article selection.

But both Facebook's and Google's statements refuse to reckon with the problems these automated systems have created.

The search for Danley began after the Las Vegas police identified a woman named Marilou Danley as a person of interest and possible traveling companion of the real shooter, though law enforcement later noted they did not believe she was involved with the shooting.

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.

Facebook has launched its Safety Check in the aftermath of the shooting.

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And other users like far-right provocateur Laura Loomer went viral on Twitter stoking speculation that Islamic terror groups were responsible for the shooting.

The company said last month it would turn the ads over to Congress and increase transparency of all political ads. "Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results", Google said in a statement, as cited by Gizmodo.

"Our Global Security Operations Center spotted these posts this morning and we have removed them", a Facebook spokesperson told CNN.

The Gateway Pundit ― a right-wing blog that routinely traffics in disinformation but has received White House press credentials from the Trump administration ― identified the suspect as "Geary Danley", a name that had previously been circulating on 4chan. However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online.

Google, for its part, doesn't seem to understand how bad some "breaking stories" and "content" are in the context of news, especially around a terrorist attack. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make improvements to prevent this from happening in the future".

Internet rumors and hoaxes have become a fixture of high-profile tragedies and disasters, but by allowing them to stand alongside legitimate news stories, Facebook and Google granted them extra prominence and implicit credibility.