Electronics

Biggest companies spread conspiracy theories

Biggest companies spread conspiracy theories

Benjamin Kelly, an aide to state Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, reportedly sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times' Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary about the appearance of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, on CNN.

YouTube's trending video section usually contains movie trailers generating buzz, television segments and content from popular creators, but a video that briefly hit the top of the page on Wednesday (21 February) has raised concerns once again about the ability of existing content moderation systems to correctly categorise and remove videos.

To back his absurd claims, Kelly linked to a YouTube video of Hogg in a news clip from California over a dispute with a lifeguard about a boogie board.

Piero Guerra, a 16-year-old junior, who considered himself a gun-rights supporter before the shooting, said he can understand why some people are angry with the students' efforts.

YouTube later removed the video, saying the description on the post violated its policy on "harassment and bullying". The platform's Trending tab is curated by algorithms, not people, and is geared to calculate overall popularity using metrics such as view count, the rate of growth in views, and age of the video.

There had been allegations made that Hogg is in favour of repealing the Second Amendment however he argued that he doesn't "want to take a constitutional right away from American citizens". The tweet reaped 8,300 retweets and a like from Donald Trump Jr.

Below the video, YouTube's algorithm suggested viewers watch a clip with similar claims. A search for Hogg's name on YouTube on Wednesday turned up eight conspiracy videos and only two legitimate news reports in a top-ten listing before YouTube intervened. After the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, some conspiracy theorists said the massacre was staged by the government and accused victims' families of being paid actos.

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Just days after watching their classmates die, survivors of the Florida school shooting came under a different kind of assault, this time from online trolls who threatened the students as they seek tighter gun laws. But Jones repeatedly implied Hogg and others are crisis actors.

A conservative website, The Gateway Pundit, published a story with the headline, "Exposed: David Hogg, Whose Father Is An FBI Agent, Appears To Have Been Coached On Anti Trump Lines".

It used screenshots of an interview Hogg did with with CNN affiliate KCBS, in combination with other images, in an attempt to suggest that Hogg and other students are "crisis actors". "I'm somebody that had to witness this and live through this and I continue to have to do that", David Hogg told Anderson Cooper. "Any video flagged to us that violates this policy is reviewed and then removed".

The video went viral and prompted many conspiracy theorists to speculate as to whether Hogg was a student or an actor.

The company did not immediately return Quartz's request for comment on how it's dealing with external influences on its site, like YouTube videos that are shared widely on other platforms.

What do you think of the conspiracy theory? These companies "seem to be surprised every time" they see such misinformation being spread online, she added.


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