Last night—in a reoccurring American nightmare—a gunman on Michigan State University’s (MSU) campus shot multiple people before fatally killing himself. Three victims died and five were critically wounded. This morning, authorities identified the shooter as 43-year-old Anthony McRae.
During the terrifying hours that the gunman was still at large and the 50,000 students of MSU were on lockdown, social media lit up with posts claiming to have identified the shooter. These posts swiftly gained traction. Within hours, the man’s name was trending on platforms across the web.
That man wasn’t the alleged perpetrator, however. He doesn’t bear even a passing resemblance to the gunman. Yet even this morning, hours after the shooter was identified and reported as deceased, people continue falsely accusing an innocent man.
Twitter user R. Cam (@Logo_Daedalus) was stunned to be accused of the mass murder at MSU. When the internet mob came for him last night, he was at home nearly 800 miles away in Massachusetts.
Posts appear to have used photos of Cam as well as his handle on Twitter. The posts falsely said his name is Lynn Dee Walker and accused him of being the shooter.
On Tuesday morning, Cam told the Daily Dot via direct message on Twitter that he was aware people were using his likeness to falsely accuse him of the shooting. Some images show a fake Facebook post using a selfie of Cam to claim he was about to commit the rampage at MSU.
On Twitter last night, he described the experience as “fucked up,” adding, “this society is spiritually demonic.”
Multiple people quickly realized that he is innocent and tried to counteract the wave of false information.
Behavioral scientist Caroline Orr Bueno, who studies disinformation, compiled what she described as a “small sample” of the Facebook posts falsely identifying him as the shooter. Bueno tweeted, “The name is auto-completing & trending on FB’s algorithm, which means FB is amplifying disinfo accusing the wrong person of being the gunman.”
Philip Lewis of HuffPost also alerted people about the false reports, as did several others.
Cam personally tried to counteract the onslaught of lies by asking people to report posts falsely identifying him as the MSU shooter.
But by then it was too late.
“You’re going to fucking pay for what you did,” someone wrote in a post tagging him hours after people started correcting the record.
The Daily Dot found posts falsely accusing him of the shooting on Truth Social, Facebook, and Twitter on Tuesday. Some were shared hours after police released photos and a description of the actual shooter, who was Black and didn’t look anything like Cam.
Many, though not all, of the posts, have since been corrected to identify the actual shooter.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the spread of misinformation started as someone’s idea of a joke. Cam told the Daily Dot that he’s aware that a person claims to be responsible for the false accusations against him.
A screenshot of a tweet circulating online says, “It’s fake I lied, I made that Facebook thing in photoshop lol, sorry. Lynn Dee Walker isn’t real, it was a meme.”
“He’s done similar things to me in the past before,” Cam said.
Others say the post originated on 4chan, which has a history of trying to trick the media into covering fake names and identities of mass shooters.
No matter how it originally began or who was responsible, social media made an ideal breeding ground for horrible lies about an innocent person in the midst of a tragedy.
“I don’t want to stay up all night exonerating myself. I’m just disgusted, viscerally disgusted,” Cam tweeted last night.
Many people are urging him to sue those who perpetuated the lie. He doesn’t have much hope that such will succeed.
“I doubt I can take any serious action against people for this,” he told the Daily Dot.