Fake news on YouTube shooting spreads, despite recent efforts

In the wake of tragedy, familiar accusations, claims and conspiracies emerge on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and beyond.

Morgan Little Senior Director, Audience
Morgan leads the teams managing CNET's presence and content across social media, news platforms and more after stints in the marketing world and LA Times. Eventually his last byline on the site will be about something other than Godzilla
Morgan Little
2 min read

Even before police secured YouTube's headquarters after a shooting there Tuesday, social media was flooded with a familiar scourge: fake news.

Every major social network has its own challenges with disinformation. They've enacted series of algorithmic and structural changes in order to combat its spread. Just as Tuesday's shooting raged, Facebook said it was scrubbing more than 270 pages linked to a Russian troll farm.

Police say three victims in the shooting in San Bruno, California, have been transported for emergency treatment and the suspected female shooter was found dead from what they believe to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The headquarters has been evacuated and law enforcement officers are continuing to investigate.

You'd never know that on Twitter, where various accounts claimed to know much more about the incident and its perpetrator than law enforcement. Many were passed over, but some still managed to attract dozens of interactions. 

Someone rebooted a common hoax that actor Sam Hyde was the shooter, a frequent accusation following shootings. The post included a photo of Hyde carrying an assault weapon.


This tweet has since been removed.

Another bogus claim was that YouTuber Matt Jarbo is behind the shooting, 

False flag conspirators reemerged in their corner of Twitter to make their familiar claims about crisis actors participating in the shooting.

Even a BuzzFeed reporter actively debunking fake news was pulled into the misinformation.

And the Twitter account of one of the first YouTube employees to report the attack was hacked, prompting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to step in.

Dorsey also addressed the issue of fake news on Twitter in a later statement.

YouTube itself, which has been subject to widespread criticism for surfacing conspiratorial videos in the wake of tragedies, was promoting verified media sources through the early waves of reports.


On Reddit, subreddits known for incubating conspiracies that spread to other networks reacted exactly how you'd expect them to.

Meanwhile on Gab, a social network that has become a haven for extremist and conspiratorial threads, speculation familiar to anyone following the rise of fake news emerged.


And even our own Facebook account was subjected to comments promoting fake news before they were removed, echoing a refrain that Parkland shooting survivor and activist David Hogg was in some way involved.


Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.

Tech Culture: From film and television to social media and games, here's your place for the lighter side of tech.