The YouTube shooting which left at least three injured and saw hundreds evacuate the California headquarters has sparked a slew of erroneous conspiracy theories, hoaxes and false stories on social media.
Police were called after a shooter opened fire and then fatally shot herself on the video sharing platform’s Silicon Valley campus on Tuesday.
The woman suspected of carrying out the shooting in the heart of America’s leading tech hub has now been named by local police as 39-year-old San Diego resident Nasim Aghdam.
The alleged attacker was a prolific video blogger on Youtube and an animal rights activist. Ms Aghdam’s father has since told the Bay Area News Group that she was angry with YouTube because the site had stopped paying her for videos she posted on the platform.
YouTube posters can receive money from advertisements that accompany their videos, but the company “de-monetises” some channels for reasons including inappropriate material or having fewer than 1,000 subscribers.
While the proliferation of misinformation and spurious reporting on social media has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, the response to the YouTube shooting has been deemed one of the most extreme and damaging yet.
Before police even managed to secure YouTube’s headquarters, hoaxes were widely disseminated on Twitter. The social media site responded by saying it was “tracking” the accounts and “taking action on anything that violates our rules”:
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said: “We’re also aware of the misinformation being spread on Twitter. We’re tracking, learning, and taking action. We‘re working diligently on product solutions to help.”
Here is a selection of wholly false and inaccurate information and accusations which gained traction on social media.
Images of the purported shooter included women wearing head scarves
This was one of the earliest details which was disseminated about what the alleged assailant looked like. Anti-Muslim website Jihad Watch used the “headscarf” claim to hypothesize about a possible “jihad attack” in spite of no official confirmation of the suspect’s religion or attire.
Lucian B Wintrich, who writes for right-wing Gateway Pundit blog, appeared to suggest the shooter was a Muslim woman grounded on a local ABC station’s report the suspect was a woman wearing a “headscarf.”
Twitter users falsely claimed comedian Sam Hyde was the shooter
Hyde, who co-created sketch comedy group Million Dollar Extreme, is blamed by online trolls after many shootings. Some users on online forum 4chan sought to encourage others to “start memeing Sam Hyde” in an attempt to get the hoax on TV.
Conspiracy videos surfaced on Facebook
Far-fetched erroneous conspiracy videos claiming the shooting was “staged” emerged on Facebook.
A clip posted on Facebook said the shooting had been “staged” in a “government false flag” operation.
Several YouTubers were erroneously accused of being behind the shooting
Another 4Chan user claimed a YouTube food reviewer whose image has been used in a previous hoax was a photo of the shooter. German YouTuber DragonLord was also falsely identified as the shooter.
Brittany Venti, a YouTube video creator, reposted several tweets that accused her of being the assailant.
One of the first YouTube employees to report the attack’s Twitter account was hacked
Vadim Lavrusik, a manager with over 40,000 Twitter followers whose tweets about the attack had garnered a wide audience, tweeted about being on lockdown with his colleagues and later that he had safely evacuated the campus soon after 1pm.
Among other things, the hacker wrote “PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY FRIEND I LOST HIM IN THE SHOOTING” according to the Verge. The tweet reportedly linked to a photo of another popular YouTube video creator.
The hack prompted Mr Dorsey to intervene and say he would look into it.
Misinformation flooded Reddit
Subreddits known for developing conspiracies that extend to other networks linked the shooting as a “false flag” to be “anti-gun”. They also postulated the suspect was wearing a hijab and bore a resemblance to leading Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour.