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Google offers prayers for Las Vegas but keeps quiet on fake news

CEO Sundar Pichai says Google has victims from the mass shooting in Las Vegas in its prayers.

Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, kicked off the event with a statement for the victims affected by the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google is thinking of victims in Las Vegas but keeping quiet on accidentally spreading fake news about the mass shooting.

At Google's event in San Francisco on Wednesday, CEO Sundar Pichai opened with a statement on Las Vegas.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the victims," he said on stage. Pichai didn't mention anything about failing to stop fake news about the shooting from showing up in Google search results.

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Google was criticized after the search engine surfaced a 4Chan thread accusing the wrong person of being the gunman behind Monday's mass shooting in Las Vegas. This comes about six months after Google pledged to fight fake news with tools like its "fake check" tags and tweaks to its search results.

Internet trolls and wannabe sleuths originally pinned the deadliest mass shooting in US history on a person named Geary Danley, and Google's algorithm picked up the internet chatter. It placed a  /pol/ thread from the 4Chan site as one of the top news stories if you searched the name.

But Geary Danley wasn't the gunman. Police identified the shooter as Stephen Paddock. Fake news surrounding the shooting rapidly spread across platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and Google's algorithm fell victim to the plague of hoaxes.

In a statement on Monday, Google said it was looking further into the issue and that its algorithm had messed up when it linked the 4Chan thread. It's unclear why the search engine even considered the forum a news source.

"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 its statement. "Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. 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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