When the gunman of a mass shooting is named, the Internet rushes to find that person’s digital footprint. On Sunday, those looking for Baton Rouge gunman Gavin Long’s Facebook profile instead found — and by the hundreds, shared — a badly faked account.
The Facebook page for “Gavin Long” had a grand total of three Facebook posts, two of which were edited to make it appear as though they were posted months ago. They were actually written shortly after news outlets began to identify Long as the gunman who killed three police officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge on Sunday.
One post, backdated to appear as if it had been written on July 9, read, “cops hunt us on the daily smh. evil scum,” and linked to a Daily Beast story about Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by Baton Rouge police. That one post was shared more than 380 times — often by people who believed the page was really that of the gunman — in less than 30 minutes.
Although it may appear as though the nearly viral post was created earlier this month, Facebook tells you when someone has backdated a post. And it gives you the date and time of when it was actually posted, alongside the date that the user chooses to set for it. According to that information, the post was created at 5:02 p.m. Sunday, shortly after Long’s name began to circulate as that of the gunman.
Other reasons the profile is an obvious fake?
- The account had zero friends
- The profile picture used for the account has been on the Internet for years, occasionally used to accompany racist comments and jokes at places like 4chan, an image sharing website. Google’s image search pulls it up as a leading result for the search term “black guy.”
- After the post pictured above started to take off, whoever was running the account decided to post again as Long. Police said Sunday that the attacker had died in a shootout with officers.
As the anonymous poster predicted, the account was suspended from Facebook minutes later. But some people are still sharing images of Long’s account — particularly the post calling police officers “evil scum” — as if they are genuine.
The fake page listed Long’s workplace as NewsBall, which describes itself as an “uncensored news” site.
“If you read or watch a news story that will not name a killer because they are a minor,” their site says, “or an individual that is accusing someone of rape — then come to NewsBall.com & see their name & pictures.”
Late Sunday night, NewsBall released a 3,000-word statement explaining that it created the fake Long account to expose “insane &/or gullible mindless people of society,” to outline the reasons the site does not support law enforcement and to encourage people to vote for Donald Trump in November.
This post, originally published on July 17, has been updated.