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Las Vegas shooting: Online forum 4Chan misidentifies suspect, calls him ‘alt-left’

Posters on the 4chan’s ‘Politically Incorrect’ thread declared Geary Danley as the suspect while the police confirmed it was Stephen Paddock.

world Updated: Oct 02, 2017 19:59 IST
HT Correspondent
Las Vegas Metro Police officers gather near the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival.
Las Vegas Metro Police officers gather near the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival. (REUTERS)

In the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting where a lone gunman opened fire at a country music festival late Sunday night, online forum 4chan speculated intensely on the identity of the suspect.

After the Las Vegas police released a statement naming an Asian woman, Marilou Danley as a ‘person of interest’ in the mass shooting, a thread on 4chan /pol/ started digging out information related to her and traded conspiracy theories, reports Mashable.

Posters on the 4chan’s ‘Politically Incorrect’ thread found Geary Danley’s Facebook profile and misidentified him as the shooter. They claimed that Geary was married to Marilou and was ‘alt-left’, anti-Trump. They bolstered their argument by sharing screenshots from Geary’s Facebook profile where he had liked pages such as ‘Thank you Obama’, ‘Fight Trump, ‘Not my President’, among others.

Of course, the 4chan speculation was unfounded and plain wrong, as the police identified 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock from Nevada as the shooter. Police later located and identified Marilou as Paddock’s associate.

But before the police confirmation, right-wing media sites and social media users were quick to pick up and spread the 4chan conspiracy theory misidentifying Geary Danley as the shooter. The Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump site credentialed by the White House, was among the news organisations that picked up the fake news straight from 4chan.

Some of the 4chan and Gateway Pundit’s story have now been deleted after the police confirmed Paddock as the shooter. 4chan is often criticised for its right-wing leanings and racist memes.

But in this case, Google’s algorithm amplified the error, points out the Mashable report. A search for ‘Geary Danley’ places two 4chan threads right at the top, that misidentify him as the Las Vegas shooting suspect.

This is not the first time online forums have contributed to the misinformation and rumours after a terror attack. After the Boston marathon bombings, a crowd-sourced thread on Reddit called r/findbostonbombers wrongly identified Brown University student Sunil Tripathi as one of the bombers. The attacks were perpetrated by the Tsarneav brothers and it later emerged that Tripathi, who had no connection with the bombings, had committed suicide.

Tripathi wasn’t the only one -- the online community doxxed many ‘suspects’ in its investigation, most of them with brown skin. In the Boston marathon bombings too, the Reddit thread gained credence after news outlets like Buzzfeed and New York Post picked up the news and it went mainstream.