Bizarre conspiracy theory videos certainly aren’t a new phenomenon for YouTube, but the streaming site is facing criticism for promoting content in its search results that claims the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas was a hoax.
Stephen Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured over 520 others when he opened fire on crowds at a country music festival from the Mandalay Bay Resort Sunday night.
As reported by The Guardian, videos asking if the most deadly mass shooting in modern US history even happened have already gained millions of views on YouTube. Typing “Las Vegas shooting videos” into the site’s search bar brings up a number of clips that claim the incident was faked, while others insist it was a false flag operation used to bring in tighter gun controls. Those that deny it happened say green screens were used during post-shooting interviews, and that the victims were “actors.”
“When I see my wife fighting for her life with a gunshot wound to her chest, and my daughter was also shot, it’s pretty conclusive evidence that it did happen,” said Stephen Melanson, whose wife and daughter were both shot during the attack. Witness Krista Metz added, “It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not a joke. It did happen. I was there [...] We literally thought we were going to die.”
This year has seen YouTube introduce several new measures to help identify and remove terrorist or violent extremist material. But the company says these type of conspiracy videos don’t violate its standards, so they’re unlikely to be taken down.
While most people won't believe the videos' claims, the clips can have consequences for the survivors and victims' families. A father of one of the Sandy Hook shooting victims has faced numerous death threats from those who believe the incident was faked.
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Google and Facebook also promoted multiple fake news articles and conspiracy theories. Both companies released statements that placed the blame firmly on their algorithms.