Google search results promoted false information regarding Texas shooter Devin Patrick Kelley, suggesting he was a Muslim convert and radical leftist.
Google search results have again displayed false information regarding gunman Devin Patrick Kelley who, last Sunday, opened fire on church attendees in Wilson County, Texas, killing 26.
In its ‘popular on Twitter’ feature, the search engine displayed false stories, including ones that identified Kelley as a Muslim convert and left-wing extremist.
The links featured high in the search results, below ‘Top Stories’. Despite a lack of evidence regarding the ideology motivating the attack, searching for the suspect’s name prompted Google to add ‘antifa’ to the search, offering results from Russian news channel RT and sites peddling conspiracy theories.
Google directs users to the Twitter feed of InfoWars editor Paul Watson in search results for Devin Patrick Kelley. pic.twitter.com/AwQ5MasJMr
— Jonathon Morgan (@jonathonmorgan) November 6, 2017
Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, blamed the search engine’s ranking algorithm, which the company said would be improved.
Following the Las Vegas shooting in October, Google was critcised for having displayed fake news in the Top Stories section of its search results. The problem originated on 4chan, where users speculated on the identity of the suspect, resulting in different blogs and news sites, including right-wing Gateway Pundit, picking up the comments. Users also searched for a name mistakenly attributed to the suspect. Google’s algorithms traced the source of the story back to the anonymous message board and linked to it in the Top Stories section.
A Google spokesperson said the company would ‘continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.’
Sullivan said a similar situation had been averted in the case of the Texas shooting due to improvements to the site’s algorithms.
‘Early changes put in place after Las Vegas shootings seemed to help with Texas,’ he wrote.
Not just talk. Google made changes to Top Stories and is still improving those. We'll do same with tweets. We want to get this right.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) November 7, 2017
This time, however, Google displayed false tweets suggesting Kelley belonged to a pro-Bernie Sanders group, that he was a Muslim convert, and that he was a radical far-left activist.
Sullivan assured that the misleading information was present for a brief time and displayed only below legitimate search results.
New media has come under increased scrutiny and pressure to curb ‘fake news’ since Russia has been implicated in interfering with social media.
Sarah Mills is a managing editor and writer at Uncommon Ground Media.