YouTube Criticized for Promoting Las Vegas Massacre Conspiracy Videos

Videos from questionable sources are getting high play on the video-sharing site says The Guardian and the Wall Street Journal.


Google is drawing criticism for apparently promoting videos on YouTube that suggest the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas was a hoax or the result of a massive conspiracy.

The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 5 reported seeing multiple videos questioning some of the basic facts around the shooting surfacing at or near the top of YouTube's results when searching for videos on the incident. Some of the videos have already garnered millions of views and are fueling a false narrative about the event, the publications claimed.

An eWEEK search Thursday afternoon on YouTube for "Las Vegas shooting videos"— the term used by The Guardian—surfaced at least three videos in the top 20 results that appeared to question official facts surrounding the incident. Two of the videos suggested that multiple shooters were involved and one suggested a conspiracy.

It's the second time since Sunday's shooting, which killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others, that Google's search algorithms have drawn flak for promoting stories from questionable sources.

Earlier this week, Google and Facebook drew criticism for spreading fake news about the identity of the shooter. In Google's case, its search engine displayed a story from hacking website 4chan that identified the wrong individual as the killer, on top of its search results.

The company, in comments to media outlets that reported the story, said the 4chan story should not have topped results for searches pertaining to the shooting. Google committed to improving its search algorithms to ensure stories from authoritative sources got higher play.

Google did not respond immediately to an eWEEK request seeking comment on its YouTube search results or to the 4chan story. The Guardian quoted a Google as saying the videos questioning facts around the Las Vegas shooting did not violate the company's standards.

The Journal meanwhile reported Google as tweaking YouTube search algorithms so videos from authoritative sources are promoted over ones from less reputable sources.

The role that companies such as Google and Facebook play in disseminating news and information to mass audiences has become the subject of considerable attention in recent months. As the global reach and influence of these companies have grown, many have begun using the platforms to propagate fake news, hate agendas and terrorist messages.

Google, Facebook and Twitter for instance face multiple lawsuits from families of terror victims, charging them with letting terrorists use their platforms to recruit and to proselytize.

Following last year's U.S. general elections, Facebook in particular has come under a lot of scrutiny for allegedly allowing its platform to be used to disseminate fake stories and information aimed at influencing the election outcome.

Google meanwhile has reportedly begun an internal investigation to examine whether individuals with Russia-links used its advertising services and other platforms to try and influence the election results.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.