Science

Web giants allowed fake news to flow on Las Vegas shooting

Web giants allowed fake news to flow on Las Vegas shooting

Despite increased efforts this year to tamp down the spread of fake news and hoaxes on their platforms, both Google and Facebook have long ways to go in solving the issue as the tragic shooting in Las Vegas over the weekend uncovered.

Google said the 4chan search result only surfaced when people searched for the person wrongly identified as the shooter, a fraction of overall queries. 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 stories claimed that the shooter was an "anti-Trump" Democrat and displayed pictures of a man who is not identified as a suspect. 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".

Google News' statement claims that these false reports landed on the service's "Top Stories" feed due to a burst of activity for a name that had never received many search attempts.

In a statement shared with reporters, Google blamed the promotion of 4chan in its search results on its algorithm, which apparently is now properly tweaked.

"This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future", Google said.

Facebook's Trending Topics section for the shooting includes a featured article and a mix of public posts generated by an algorithm.

Facebook's fake-news arose in a sensitive spot: the "Security Check" page that lets people involved with human-made and natural disasters post messages for friends and loved ones.

Among the outlets promoted by Facebook were The Gateway Pundit; a blog called Alt Right News; and several websites of questionable credibility. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", the firm told Fast Company. "We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused". United States lawmakers are also investigating the role their platforms inadvertently played in Russia's alleged campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook on Monday turned over to Congress 3,000 ads linked to a Russian troll farm.

Google is talking with congressional investigators as it conducts its own investigation of Russian interference in the US presidential election.