On the evening of Oct. 1, a shooter stationed in a 32nd floor hotel room killed at least 58 people attending an outdoor country music festival below and injured more than 500 others. The attack in Las Vegas is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The suspect is Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., and law enforcement officials said he is dead.
Following deadly incidents, it’s not uncommon even for credible journalistic outlets to report developments that eventually turn out to be untrue or exaggerated. But the rise of social media as a vehicle for monetizing clicks from fake news has worsened this problem.
We’re monitoring the developments about the massacre for misinformation. We will update this post as we debunk more unfounded rumors and fake news.
See something that needs a fact-check? Email [email protected]
Erroneous (deleted) stories single out wrong suspect
Early on Oct. 2, several websites highlighted an incorrect suspect’s allegiance to liberal social media groups. The sites later deleted those posts.
The website Daily Dot posted a screenshot of a deleted post at the site Gateway Pundit that was headlined, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army.” It soon became clear that the man in question shared a last name with a person of interest in the case, but was not the shooter.
Similarly, the website Puppet String News posted a story headlined, “Shooter in Las Vegas Loves Anti-Trump Facebook Pages and Obama’s OFA.” The post was among several that were flagged by Facebook as potentially questionable — part of an effort to fight fake news that includes PolitiFact and other partners. However, by the time we looked into it, the post had been taken down.
Website links attack to Antifa
Meanwhile, Puppet String News also posted a story headlined, “Antifa claims responsibility for Las Vegas attack,” basing its claim on a group’s apparently deleted Facebook post.
“Antifa” is the shorthand term for anti-fascists, which broadly describes far-left-leaning militant groups challenging neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Melbourne Antifa’s Facebook page identifies itself as a political organization, unaffiliated to any particular organization, theoretical tendency or political party. The page said it was set up to serve as a resource for anti-racist and anti-fascist activists in Melbourne, Australia.
Puppet String News’ Oct. 2 story included a screenshot of a now-deleted post on Melbourne Antifa’s Facebook page, which said: “One of our comrades from our Las Vegas branch has made these fascist Trump supporting dogs pay.” Melbourne Antifa’s Facebook page does not include the post that Puppet String News wrote about, but Internet Archive took a snapshot.
However, no evidence has yet emerged that the Australian group — or any other Antifa group — played any role.
We messaged Melbourne Antifa for comment but did not get a response.
Reports of missing people repeated from previous attacks
While some people may be using Twitter to locate their loved ones, some seemingly desperate pleas for help on the Internet are completely fake.
Similar hoaxes have cropped up following previous attacks this year, including the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people, and an attack on London Bridge.
BuzzFeed assembled a collection of fake missing-persons items from the Las Vegas shooting that included purported missing people who were actually a porn star, a comedian, a German soccer player, and a suspect in a Mexican murder case.
One troll Twitter account with a profile photo of YouTube personality TheReportOfTheWeek, tweeted a photo of Johnny Sins with a caption claiming that the man in the photo was the user’s father who had gone missing after the Las Vegas shooting. He is actually a porn star.
The account, tweeting under the name “Jack Sins,” was pegged as a false claim almost immediately after the tweet began to trend. When a Mashable reporter asked the account user why they would tweet a fake missing-person claim, the user replied, “For the retweets :)”
Another Twitter user, @cryinginside247, tweeted a photo of an unidentified man with the caption, “My autistic brother was going to a concert in Las Vegas and I haven’t been able to contact him.” The user’s claim was found to be insincere.
‘Clearly coordinated Muslim terror attack’ not echoed by investigators
One prominent Las Vegas commentator quickly pointed the finger at Islamic terrorists, well before the shooter’s identity — or his motive — was known.
Wayne Allyn Root, a twice-weekly columnist for the Las Vegas Journal-Review and one of the leading proponents of the theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, tweeted soon after the shooting that it was a “clearly coordinated Muslim terror attack.”
Root subsequently touted reports that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the shooter had recently converted to Islam. But the statement provided no evidence, and terrorism experts expressed skepticism about ISIS’ claim.
At a briefing on Monday morning in Las Vegas, law enforcement officials said they were not aware of any linkage to international groups.