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The video has since been removed, and in its place a notice that it was taken down for violating YouTube’s policy on “harassment and bullying.” But there are plenty of others that paint Hogg, who’s been featured on several news programs after the shooting, as a “crisis actor”and the Parkland shooting as an elaborate hoax meant to tear away at gun owners’ rights.
This move to paint any mass shooting as a hoax happens after almost every mass shooting, which is to say it happens quite frequently, and YouTube still has not found a way to stop this kind of misinformation from crawling up the Trending page. It happened after the Las Vegas shooting, and YouTube claimed it altered its algorithm to filter out those kinds of results. Then it happened again after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting in November.
If you search for David Hogg, the top three results as of Wednesday morning come from an Alex Jones channel, and two other conspiracy channels. Jones is a frequent pusher of dangerous, inaccurate shooting conspiracy theories.
Hogg’s father has had to publicly debunk these theories about his 17-year-old son, after Donald Trump Jr. liked a video on Twitter that claimed David was a crisis actor and son of an FBI agent. Searches for “Parkland shooting” fair better, yielding links to news sources like CNN and CBS. But these theories aren’t just spreading on YouTube.
This is how absurd, gaslighting "crisis actor" theories go viral.— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) February 20, 2018
One @facebook post from this person has 111,000+ shares. Another has 23,000.
This is one person, two posts.
Imagine the millions and millions of people crackpot theories like this are reaching and influencing. pic.twitter.com/VU7cKCJhXq
It seems YouTube is going to have to make another alteration to its algorithm, which brought it a lot of criticism over the last year, especially last month when a Logan Paul video of a dead body reached the top of Trending. Reached for comment, a YouTube spokesperson said: “This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward.”
The video had more than 200,000 views before its removal.
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.