Google is touting 4Chan threads which incorrectly name the Las Vegas shooter

Google algorithm fail puts 4chan's wrongly named Las Vegas gunman on top of search

Fake news is back in a big way and threatening to distort the official version of events in Las Vegas, after Facebook and Google both promoted fallacious online stories that the shooter was an anti-Trump "liberal".

Google changed its algorithms in October 2014 so that non-journalistic sites could still be included in the "in the news" section.

The false content on 4chan about the mass murderer was "quickly picked up and magnified by The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that has repeatedly misidentified attackers and continues to promote debunked conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama's birthplace, among other misinformation", Business Insider reported.

The fake news spilling from the platforms of Bay Area tech giants comes as they face questions from Congress about alleged use of their services by Russia-linked entities in an alleged campaign to influence the presidential election that gave us Donald Trump. Far-right website Gateway Pundit also published a story with the headline: "Last Vegas Shooter reportedly a Democrat who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army". The gunman has been named as 64-year-old local Stephen Paddock.

But the less-than-reliable news circulating in the aftermath of the Las Vegas attack didn't stop with Google. 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. But according to some background bullet points a Google spokesperson shared with a journalist from The Outline, the company admitted that "when the 4chan story broke, it triggered Top Stories which unfortunately led to this inaccurate result". The 4chan result only appeared if users entered the erroneous name as a query, Google said.

Facebook said the offending post was spotted by its global security operations centre but that "its removal was delayed by a few minutes".

"We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused", a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

There were also several social media users who spread fake "missing friends" photos on Twitter, including the fake Twitter account Jack Sins, who shared a photo of a man claiming to be his missing father.

The false identification of Danley as the suspected shooter wasn't the only hoax that spread overnight Sunday into Monday morning.

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