When I see my wife fighting for her life with a gunshot wound to her chest and my daughter was also shot, its pretty conclusive evidence that it did happen
YouTube is promoting conspiracy theory videos claiming that the Las Vegas mass shooting was a hoax, outraging survivors and victims families, in the latest case of tech companies spreading offensive propaganda.
Its only been days since a gunman inside the Mandalay Bay hotel opened fire on a music festival, killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500. But videos questioning whether the shooting really happened and claiming that the government has lied about basic facts have already garnered millions of views on YouTube and are continuing to run rampant.
It appears YouTube is actively helping these videos reach wide audiences. Searching for Las Vegas shooting videos immediately leads to a wide range of viral videos suggesting that law enforcement and others have purposefully deceived the public. Some label the tragedy a false flag, a term conspiracy theorists typically use to refer to mass shootings they say are staged by the government to advance gun control.
Stephen Melanson, whose wife and daughter were both shot in the attack, told the Guardian he believed YouTube should take down videos suggesting the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history had been faked.
When I see my wife fighting for her life with a gunshot wound to her chest, and my daughter was also shot, its pretty conclusive evidence that it did happen, said Melanson, whose wife, two daughters and two friends escaped alive from the Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday night. My daughter texted me There is a shooting right in front of us and another text said, Mom is shot.
One video on the first page of results on the Google-owned video platform Wednesday morning was called Las Vegas Shooting Did It Actually Happen? and questioned whether the attack was fake and if victims were actors. It had more than 250,000 views after one day on the site.
YouTube told the Guardian that this footage and other specific conspiracy videos that appeared after a generic search did not violate its standards.
Complaints about YouTube enabling fake news follow reports that within hours of the tragedy, both Facebook and Google were actively promoting rightwing blogs and conspiracy sites, some misidentifying the shooter and claiming he was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump. The proliferation of politicized propaganda comes as Silicon Valley corporations are facing increased scrutiny over their role in allowing false news to reach millions on their platforms, possibly assisting Russias efforts to interfere in US politics.
Conspiracy theories about mass shootings are nothing new in America, but some fear YouTubes popularity and algorithms are exacerbating the problem. In addition to automatically suggesting Las Vegas conspiracy footage to people with basic search requests, YouTube has promoted a wide variety of fake related content to people who watch a single propaganda video.
That means for some, YouTube is not suggesting reputable media sources and instead is exposing them to dozens of videos painting a picture of a vast conspiracy.