Viral hoaxes are an unfortunate, and permanent, part of how we experience tragedy online. In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas — the deadliest in modern U.S. history — trolls spread hoaxes and misinformation, as they always do in moments like this, hoping to briefly go viral.
Often, this misinformation takes advantage of the good intentions of those who share it: One of the most popular types of shooting hoaxes involves posting a photograph of a stranger, friend or enemy and claiming that the person pictured has been missing since the shooting. It happened many times after the attack in Manchester, England, at an Ariana Grande concert. People share these tweets thinking that they’re doing something to help.
Below, we’ve rounded up all of the hoaxes, fake news and viral misinformation we can find in the wake of the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday. We’ll continue to update this post as we see more.
These people are not missing in Las Vegas after the shooting
The man pictured below is a porn star named Johnny Sins. The profile pic is of YouTuber TheReportofTheWeek, who was the victim of a similar viral hoax after the Manchester attacks.
Mashable talked to the guy who posted this tweet about why he did it. His response: “for the retweets :)”
There are many, many other fake and suspicious tweets like this spreading around Twitter in the wake of the shootings in Vegas, hoping to go viral with the help of well-meaning people who believe these photos are of real potential victims.
One account with nearly 5,000 retweets replied to their own, very unverifiable, request for help with a plug for their Instagram account:
And while it hasn’t gone viral this time, there are other tweets using TheReportofTheWeek’s photo, again, claiming he was in Las Vegas:
There are, and will continue to be, more of these tweets in the coming hours. We’re not going to be able to collect every single one of them here, but there are some clues you can look for before sharing a tweet like this. For starters, take a look at the user’s Twitter history and the replies to that tweet before sharing. Often, a fake viral tweet has a bunch of replies noting that it’s fake, for instance.
These are not the photos or names of the Las Vegas gunman
There’s a popular, right-wing meme that involves identifying Sam Hyde as the gunman in the immediate wake of a mass shooting. It happened after Las Vegas, too:
A second person falsely identified as the shooter has also gone viral on the far-right Internet: Geary Danley. We’ve gone into more detail about how this particular rumor developed, here. This bit of misinformation was briefly a headline on the Gateway Pundit:
The shooter was not confirmed as a recent convert to Islam
The Israel National News, for a brief time, had a headline on their site claiming that authorities had identified the gunman as a recent convert to Islam:
Although their story has since been updated to note that police actually have “no knowledge” of shooting suspect Stephen Paddock’s religious beliefs, the meme has continued to spread.
This rumor got a second wind Monday when the Islamic State, through the Amaq News Agency, claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas shootings, and that Paddock had converted to Islam months ago. But there’s some important context to keep in mind about claims like this from the Islamic State. I’ll quote directly from our main news story on the shootings to explain:
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday, reporting through its Amaq news agency that the shooter was one of its “soldiers” and had recently converted to Islam, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist groups.
The group, also known as ISIS, often claims responsibility after attacks, even in cases where it is unclear whether they motivated them or were involved, and law enforcement officials on Monday disputed this claim.
“We have determined, to this point, no connection with an international terrorist group,” Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Las Vegas, said at a news briefing.
We will update this section if any new information emerges.
Gunman Stephen Paddock was not an ‘Antifa’ operative
Another rumor about Paddock — for whom authorities have not disclosed a motive — circulating on the far-right is that he had ties to “Antifa,” the umbrella term for anti-fascist activist organizations. It appears to stem from a now-deleted post on a troll Facebook account posing as a page for the “Melbourne Antifa,” claiming that Paddock was a member.
A few evidence-free tweets have gone viral while repeating this claim.
Some of those tweets also appear to conflate this rumor with another, separate thread of misinformation about Geary Danley, who was falsely pegged as the shooter by a bunch of far-right Internet sleuths. Danley had liked the pages of several liberal television shows and interest groups on Facebook, which lead to the initial rumor that the shooter was an anti-Trump Democrat. It bears repeating that police have not given a motive for Paddock, beyond saying that they believe it was a “lone wolf” attack.
Meanwhile Infowars is simultaneously running with the Antifa and Islamic State stories, while suggesting that the whole attack might also be a false flag “scripted by deep state Democrats and their Islamic allies.”
Marilou Danley was not a suspect, and she did not warn concert-goers they were “all going to die” before the shooting
Police said they were searching for a woman named Marilou Danley after the shooting, saying that they wanted to question her. But she was not described as a suspect — only a “traveling companion.” Public records indicate that Danley and Paddock lived at the same address.
Eventually, investigators said that they were able to locate and talk to Danley, and that they do not believe she was involved in the shooting. For one thing, she was found outside of the country, and was not with Paddock when he checked into the Mandalay Bay hotel, which also appears to debunk another viral tale that spread in the hours after the shooting:
It appears that the people spreading this rumor are connecting the dots between the existence of Danley and a viral story from an early media interview with a witness.
In that interview, a woman identified as Brianna described a strange moment minutes before the shooting, where a woman and her boyfriend were kicked out of the concert by security after the woman warned some audience members that they were “all going to die,” or something to that effect.
If the account of this interaction was accurate, it would certainly be eerie. But Buzzfeed talked to the firm in charge of security at Sunday night’s concert, who said that nothing of the sort happened.
This post, first published on October 2, has been updated, and will continue to update.