SMH: ‘David Hogg is a paid actor’ conspiracy being promoted by YouTube and Facebook
Following February 14th’s (2018) mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida there was an unquenchable rage all over the country.
Across America, parents, teachers, students — everyone, really — searched for some type of scapegoat, resolve, or remedy to quell the shock of 17 beloved faculty members and students murdered in cold blood.
Naturally, a call for gun control ensued. The logic is linear and the facts plain. It does not take a law degree or years of experience in policy to determine an immediate fix. So students responded.
First, directly after the shootings in interviews from their local media, and later with marches to their city halls as well as a petition to congress. And although Florida lawmakers rejected the bill to ban assault rifles days after school shooting, the mission waged on as students across America are rising up to say enough is enough.
Yet, despite being in the midst of an emotional trauma truly impossible to even begin processing, these children, who are survivors of gun violence and who’ve witnessed their classmates’ lives taken literally before their very eyes, are being used as political chess pieces by conspiracy theorists and right-winged pundits to silence their grief.
And idiots are believing them.
Though later removed after several news stories and tweets about it started to spread, YouTube’s number one trending video this morning was a conspiracy video suggesting that David Hogg, one of the survivors from the Parkland shooting, is a crisis actor. The video garnered more than 200,000 views at the time before it was deleted.
In a statement to VICE’s Motherboard, YouTube explained that they should have never promoted the video and that it was “misclassified” due to the news sources in the original video.
“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.”
As Hogg explained to CNN, his family moved from California to Florida some time ago and he joined Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for its TV production program. The video was from when he visited friends.
Yes, Hogg has gone viral on two different news programs on the opposite sides of the country for different reasons in consecutive years, but that does not mean he is a hired hand. Extremists saw an opportunity that landed in their laps and they ran with it.
Searching for Hogg’s name on YouTube also brought up a large number of conspiracy videos as the top results.
The since deleted video shows Hogg in a CBS 2 Los Angeles news report with the stand alone description “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR….” Although the footage was nothing more than Hogg and his friend arguing with a lifeguard, the fact that he’s been making several news appearances over the past few days calling for gun control and the fact that the video went viral in 2017, makes it convenient to believe… apparently.
There are several different wrongs at play here.
YouTube and Facebook must have a stronger vetting process when it comes to promoting these viral videos with that lack credibility. The same went for the 2017 presidential election. Ads and content spearheaded by algorithms, pushed divisive propaganda without any validity. These are the same kind of algorithms that helped the alt-right organize and travel to Virginia.
Lastly, it’s our responsibility as consumers of the news to be aware of what we’re reading and sharing. It’s our responsibility to to cross-reference the facts we come across, whether by other news sources or with the ample amount of information that is ready available at our fingertips, and to make judgment calls only after reaching a solid conclusion. Spreading lies is dangerous, irresponsible, and, in this case particularly, disgusting.
There are children dead. But instead of accepting the pain and outrage that comes from such a loss, some are choosing to believe an absurd idea that protects policies that their party says are nonnegotiable. These teenagers are not crisis actors paid by liberal mega-donors, they are kids who just witnessed an unthinkable atrocity and using their situation to advocate change.
You’d have to be an idiot to believe these conspiracies. But then again, we’re led by one.