"Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results", the Google spokesperson said. Facebook's "Safety Check" feature confronted users with far-right blogs that spat out false information about victims and the shooter.
After news spread that a lone, white gunman had opened fire on a crowd of people attending a country music festival from his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, causing 58 deaths and more than 500 injuries, conservative conspiracy sites like the Gateway Pundit lit up with misinformation about the shooter's identity. There are multiple reports that Danley accompanied the assailant - ID'd as Stephen Paddock by local authorities - and that she would likely have insights into what spawned such a frightful attack. During a search I ran about 9 a.m. Monday, hours after the real shooting suspect - a different person - was identified, the entire first page of Google results for a search for Geary Danley's full name were links to news sites, YouTube videos, message boards and even several /pol/ threads repeating the rumor about him.
The post suggested that the killer may have been "a Trump-hating Rachel Maddow fan" in an apparent reference to the misidentified Danley's Facebook page.
The right-wing news site Gateway Pundit also picked up these rumors as fact in a now-deleted article.
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Joe Hoft wrote on U.S. blog Gateway Pundit that the shooter was "reportedly" a left-leaning Arkansas man named Geary Danley. "However, its removal was delayed by a few minutes, allowing it to be screen captured and circulated online", the firm told Fast Company.
And for a time on Monday morning, one of those 4chan threads falsely naming Danley as the shooter was promoted by Google as a "top story" for searches for his name, as one BuzzFeed reporter noticed. Anyone who searched Google for the name of the person wrongly identified would see among the top results links to the websites that carried the false claim.
"Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries", Google said in a statement.
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. The named appeared on the board when its members began looking through people connected to names that had been mentioned by Las Vegas investigators. "This should not have appeared for any queries, and we'll continue to make improvements to prevent this from happening in the future".
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