The YouTube algorithm is promoting Las Vegas conspiracy theories


In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Google's algorithm was under fire for purportedly promoting conspiracy theories that flourished on 4chan's controversial /pol/ channel. 

SEE ALSO: Google algorithm fail puts 4chan's wrongly named Las Vegas gunman on top of search

But now Google has another headache from what is arguably the biggest thorn in its side as far as conspiracy theories are concerned: YouTube. 

A Guardian report found out that YouTube is actively promoting "Las Vegas shooting= hoax" videos, causing an outcry among survivors and relatives of the victims. 

Conspiracy theories in these videos, which feature prominent personalities such as Alex Jones or Paul Joseph Watson, range from the usual, 9/11-truther-style "it was an inside job" to "false flag" allegations. 

They all invite the audience to be suspicious of the media and law enforcement, both plotting together to deceive American citizens about what really happened in Las Vegas. 

9 PHOTOS
Las Vegas mass shooting survivors
See Gallery
Las Vegas mass shooting survivors
Paola Bautista, 39, from Fontana, California, (R) sits in her hospital bed next to her sister Daisy Bautista at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center after being shot at the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Braden Matejka, 30, (L) and his girlfriend Amanda Homulos, 23, from British Columbia, Canada sit outside Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center after he was discharged after being shot at the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 4: Kassidy Owen, 22, left, and Taylor Schmidt, 21, both of Las Vegas, NV, are photographed on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, in Las Vegas, NV. Owen and Schmidt both survived the mass shooting on Sunday's evening. Sometimes I think it happened then the next second I say did that really happend,' Owen said. 'I keep hearing the shots in my head, people running and hear the ambulances,' she added. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 4: Veteran Steve Charshafian, 59, speaks about Sunday's night mass shooting and recalls helping wounded people on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, in Las Vegas, NV. Charshafian survived the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival shooting with his wife when they hid inside their car. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 04: Aaron Stalker is interviewed outside Dance Dynamics on Wednesday October 04, 2017 in Las Vegas, NV. Stalker helped to evacuate and care for victims during Sunday night's mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Aaron was attending a hockey game when his girlfriend, Stephanie Melanson called him from the concert. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 3: Jonathan Smith was shot at least twice while trying to run back and save others in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas. (Photo by Heather Long/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 03: Brian Hopkins, the lead singer of the band Elvis Monroe, is interviewed by a tv reported on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip on the on October 3, 2017, after the mass shooting that killed 59 people and inured more than 500 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival near Mandalay Bay on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, NV. Hopkins took over 20 people into a freezer near the venue. Hopkins filmed himself during the shooting, still unsure of what the chaos was going on outside in the venue. (Photo by Doug Kranz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 2: With the presence of her family, Danny Alegria, from left, Evan Algeria and Lucy Alegria - Carmen Alegria recounts her harrowing experience surviving and escaping the mass shooting that killed 59 and injured more than 525 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 2, 2017. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE


Mashable conducted a main search on YouTube with the string "Las Vegas shooting" and got the results it expected — videos from reputable news organizations such as The Guardian, BBC, CBS, CNN and so on. 

But things radically change if you look up "Las Vegas shooting video," perhaps because you want to see raw footage from the scene or interviews with the survivors. 

It's a basic search, but that's what the algorithm automatically comes up with under "Top News": 

Image: screenshot/mashable

A user named "Real Angel of the Apocalypse" claims the real shooter was on the 10th floor and Stephen Paddock, the suspected gunman, was assassinated before the incident. The video isn't extremely popular, just under 20,000 views, but is one example of the constellations of hoaxes and truthers surrounding Las Vegas shooting. 

Scrolling down the page, a much more popular video pops up entitled "Las Vegas shooting narrative debunked in 3 videos". 

Image: SCREENSHOT/MASHABLE

Again, the theory is that shots were being fired from a very low floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. 

But what is really concerning is what happens after you watch the video. YouTube's Autoplay function means its algorithm automatically suggests videos related to the conspiracy. For instance, in this case, that the Las Vegas shooting was an "inside job": 

Image: screenshot/mashable

Another video that appeared on the main search from Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large of right-wing conspiracy site Infowars, got 1.3 million views. Among the suggested clips is Alex Jones with his 1-million views video "ANTIFA literature Found in Shooter's Vegas Hotel."

(This is part of a popular conspiracy theory among alt-right people that Stephen Paddock is a member of the ANTIFA movement, an umbrella term for far-left activist groups.) 

Image: SCREENSHOT/MASHABLE

The Guardian talked to survivors' relatives who are outraged by all of this: 

A YouTube spokeswoman told Mashable

YouTube faces a staggering 400 hours of video being uploaded on the platform every minute and the platform revels in the fact that it hosts different viewpoints. One of the factors that determines whether news outlets should appear on "Top News" is inclusion in Google News. 

Read Full Story