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Newsletter: Buffalo mass shooting becomes conspiracy theory magnet

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Andrew Wyrich


Mikael Thalen


Posted on May 23, 2022   Updated on May 23, 2022, 2:56 pm CDT

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Hello fellow citizens of the internet! Andrew here. Welcome to today’s edition of Internet Insider.

Quick programming note: for the next few days our Culture Editor Tiffany and News Director Ramon will be curating the newsletter for you all. I’m taking a few days off.

But today, we’ve got our Tech Reporter Mikael’s weekly “One Dumb Conspiracy” column and a whole bunch of essential internet culture news for you.

So let’s get into it.


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AT&T: A nonpartisan watchdog has released a report that says AT&T quietly broke its promise to stop donating to candidates who objected to certifying the 2020 election. The telecom company was one of many corporations and trade groups that pledged to alter their political giving in the wake of the Capitol riot. Check out our full report here

FANDOM: Fans have started renewal campaigns for canceled CW shows like Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman. So far, both the #SaveBatwoman and #SaveLengendsofTomorrow campaigns include petitions, hashtags, and billboards on the streets of New York. Our Culture Reporter Gavia breaks it all down here

FACIAL RECOGNITION: Four senators are urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate, who they say made “multiple misleading statements about its use of facial recognition.” The company worked with government agencies and is being accused of making misleading statements about the type of facial recognition it uses.

In Body Image
Two vehicles parked in front of a Tops store

Conspiracy theories about the Buffalo mass shooting are exploding online

Conspiracy theorists are already spreading false claims about the tragic mass shooting in New York, where 10 people were killed after a white supremacist opened fire in a Buffalo-area grocery store.

The primary suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, livestreamed the massacre on Twitch and uploaded a manifesto online detailing the racist beliefs that spurred him to target Black people.

As with nearly every traumatic event, conspiracy theorists were quick to dish out wild accusations including the claim that the shooting was actually staged by the government or a “false flag.” These kinds of conspiracy theories always pop up in the wake of tragic events. 

“Absolutely NOTHING about the ‘mass shooting’ in Buffalo, NY adds up to anything but a total false flag event,” one Twitter user wrote. “I’m calling bullshit.”

One user on Facebook compared a photo of Gendron being taken into custody and another of Gendron being arraigned in Buffalo City Court and argued that each showed a different individual.

In reality, the photos merely show Gendron in different lighting due to the environments in which each was taken.

Another popular claim circulating online alleges that more than one suspect had been taken into custody. A tweet from an account claiming to be CBS News New Zealand stated that two other individuals, Dimitri Potapoff and Richard McWingo, had been connected to the shooting.

But the account, which is not verified and was just created in March, is not run by the news organization. Not only that, the McWingo individual does not appear to exist, while Potapoff is the name of a fictional character created by a former famous YouTuber and gun enthusiast.

Another conspiracy theory regarding the shooting was launched after an on-the-scene reporter had his name misspelled on TV. The reporter, Brandon Walker, was inadvertently referred to as Walker Graham by another reporter after the chyron used the wrong name.

The simple mistake was immediately seen as proof among conspiracy theorists that the reporter was actually a “crisis actor.” Much like the “false flag” conspiracies, claims of “crisis actors” are also common among conspiracy theorists

“Let’s give a warm welcome to the latest crisis actor in the Buffalo show!” one Instagram user wrote.

The claim also spread on Twitter and Facebook, where some used the hashtag #CrisisActor in their posts.

Even though each claim is easily debunked, the belief that the shooting was staged by the government to somehow paint a bad light on conservatives is pervasive.

And unfortunately, such claims will almost certainly continue into the future following each new tragic incident. 
— Mikael Thalen


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Here are some key dispatches from across the ‘net.

📱 An Only Fans creator says her Instagram was deleted for “no reason,” so she found Facebook employees online and had sex with them to get it back.

🛏️ TikTokers are sharing their best work-from-home Slack hacks like opening the app to make their status active before going back to bed.

🍔 Checkers, the fast food chain, is planning to automate drive-thrus, including recording you while you order a cheeseburger. A short video has gone viral showing their experience with the recording.

🔔 A TikToker filmed a man peeking into her window after allegedly ringing her doorbell for 10 minutes.

🥝 Linktree co-founder Anthony Zaccaria shares how creators can optimize their link-in-bio. Sign up for Passionfruit, the Daily Dot’s weekly creator economy newsletter, for more coverage.

🚽 A TikToker filmed herself trying to catch her date in a lie after becoming suspicious of him while she was in his bathroom.

♻️ Did you know you can recycle your food scraps? Here’s a breakdown of the best food composters to transform your food waste into soil.*

💼 In a now-viral video, a worker said that she was fired in a Microsoft Teams meeting with a human resources representative.

🔎 To mark the fourth anniversary of the first QAnon drop on 4chan, the Daily Dot tells stories about Q that haven’t been looked at.

*The Daily Dot may receive a commission in connection with purchases of products or services featured here.


Well, this is awkward. A TikToker went viral for describing a work incident where she was caught accidentally scrolling through actress Brittany Murphy’s “entire” Wikipedia page while screen sharing. The worst part? She says “this isn’t even my most embarrassing work story.” 

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*First Published: May 23, 2022, 11:03 am CDT