The aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas followed the usual dreary choreography of disaster news: First, disinformation rolled in from the usual assortment of trolls, then social media platforms amplified it.
On Monday morning, Google’s Top Stories section promoted threads from 4chan, an online forum that’s a popular source of disinformation campaigns. The threads had deliberately misidentified suspects and victims, tying the shooter to Democrats, leftist groups, Islamic terror organizations, the federal government and others.
Facebook, meanwhile, promoted a post from The Gateway Pundit to the top of its news feed, even though it had misidentified the suspected shooter.
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. The story said that Danley, “reportedly the murderer of at least 20 concertgoers in Las Vegas,” was “a far-left loon.” (4chan and others also mentioned Marilou Danley, who is apparently Paddock’s girlfriend, though police have since said they don’t believe she was involved in the shooting.)
The site’s evidence for its characterization of Geary Danley was “a review of Danley’s Facebook page, where he had liked Rachel Maddow and other liberal or anti-Trump pages.” But Danley was not involved in the shooting, according to police, who instead identified the shooter as a 64-year-old Las Vegas man named Stephen Paddock.
Even after police had identified Paddock, however, the alt-right conspiracy theories continued. 4chan threads promoted by Google pushed the narrative that Islamic terrorists, Jewish people or Asians were responsible for the attack. After initially pushing Danley’s name, commenters falsely tagged someone named “Samir Al-Hajeed” as the shooter. 4chan posters and alt-right Twitter accounts…