It happened again.
After a horrifying mass shooting, searching for the shooter’s name on Google surfaced an editor of the conspiracy site InfoWars, a parody Julian Assange account claiming the shooter had converted to Islam, and a “news” Twitter feed that’s tweeted a few dozen times since it was created last month. (The account using Assange’s likeness was an impersonator account, not actually Assange, as we previously reported.)*
All of these links appeared high up in the search results, just below the “Top Stories” modules in the “Trending on Twitter” box. To Google’s credit, as the hours have gone by, the less-reliable information has been replaced by reputable sites doing actual journalism.
But the damage has been done. Despite the lack of any real evidence about the ideology behind the attack, a search for the shooter’s name now suggests you might want to append “antifa” to your search.
And when you do that, you get a mix of the Russian-backed news organization RT, small conservative sites, YouTube videos purporting to prove Devin Patrick Kelley was an anti-fascist, and a few debunks.
This is all significant because in Congressional hearings last week on the role of Russian meddling on social media in the 2016 election, Google got off easy. YouTube was barely mentioned, despite suffering from the same, if not worse, fake-news problems as Facebook and Twitter. And crucially, Google can give a temporary fake-news phenomenon a much longer life. Google, as we can see in the example above, becomes the repository of the unreliable information that people are spewing into social media.