Since the February 14, mass shooting in Parkland, FL, survivors and reporters writing about the attacks have been the victim of multiple online hoaxes pushing misinformation.
On February 14, a man opened fire inside Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL, killing 17 people. Since then, student survivors of the shooting have spoken out about and campaigned for changes to gun laws, including by helping organize the March for Our Lives, a March 24 rally in Washington, D.C.
Almost immediately following the Parkland shooting, efforts began to discredit the survivors and those reporting on it. The hoaxes included the following:
- Far-right trolls created a fake image and GIF of survivor Emma González tearing up the Constitution. Along with appearing on Squawker, the fake image and GIF subsequently spread on Twitter, where those pushing the bogus graphics included Gab, a social media platform for white nationalists, and actor Adam Baldwin.
4chan /pol/ (4chan's “politically incorrect” message board) users subsequently celebrated the news that the fake image had been shared on Twitter. The hoax was based on a video from Teen Vogue of Gonzalez tearing up a target.
Far-right message boards helped coordinate the hoax that survivor David Hogg was a “crisis actor,” which subsequently spread on YouTube and Facebook and reached multiple talk radio stations. One of those boards, 4chan's /pol/, helped make the hoax the top video on YouTube’s trending page. Other far-right websites, such as The Gateway Pundit and TruthFeed, suggested the students were coached, with the claims shared on Twitter and Facebook.
- Far-right website Squawker claimed that Hogg worked for the Center For American Progress, a hoax that was then pushed by Neon Nettle. The false claim was in turn shared on 4chan’s /pol/, the conspiracy subreddit, and by the managing editor of CNS News.
- A user on 4chan’s /pol/ seemingly created a fake image of a tweet from Hogg saying, “Fuck fags and their fag marriage,” which trolls then spread on Twitter.
- YourNewsWire published a fake story that the March For Our Lives protesters were being paid by billionaire George Soros via a Craigslist ad. It has since spread to YouTube and Facebook, including in multiple pro-Trump Facebook groups.
- Someone created fake images of tweets supposedly written by a Miami Herald reporter right after the shooting asking if the shooter was white and requesting photos of the dead bodies. (Claire Wardle, a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told Poynterthat she had never seen that kind of hoax before.)
- Someone created a fake image of a Miami Herald article that said another Florida school was under threat about a week after the shooting, which spread on Snapchat, according to Poynter.
- A fake antifa Twitter account took a photo — likely from 4chan — of someone in what they claimed was an antifa shirt and used it to falsely claim he was the shooter. From there, the image and claim spread via other far-right accounts on Twitter.
- Conspiracy theory site Infowars, along with fake news sites YourNewsWire and Neon Nettle, claimedthat there was a second shooter in the attack based on a video of one of the survivors, which the claim also being posted on Facebook. The false claim subsequently spread to the subreddit “r/The_Donald.”
- Users on 4chan's /pol/ created a fake image of a BuzzFeed article supposedly headlined “Why We Need To Take Away White People’s Guns Now More Than Ever.” The Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich subsequently tweeted the fake image.
Gateway Pundit circulating a hoax screenshot of BuzzFeed News reporting in aftermath of FL school shooting. Let me be clear, this is fake. pic.twitter.com/VNJuYPec0a
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) February 15, 2018
Multiple fake news sites published a fake story that former first lady Michelle Obama blamed President Donald Trump for the shooting. Macedonian Facebook accounts spammed one of the sites that postedthe fake story in multiple pro-Trump Facebook groups.
- Far-right websites, such as Silence Is Consent, Daily Presser, and Squawker, along with far-right accounts on Facebook and Twitter, falsely claimed that Hogg contradicted himself in a CBS interview about being at Stoneman Douglas at the time of the shooting. Contrary to far-right accusations that Hogg admitted he was not present, what Hogg explained in the interview was that he went back to the school later that night on the day of the shooting. In the interview, Hogg recounted how he was in class at Stoneman Douglas when the shooting began.
The false claim also spread around 4chan’s /pol/ and on the subreddit “r/The_Donald,” along with far-right sites The Gateway Pundit and Infowars. The claim was also picked up by RedState, which later retracted the claim. The false claim later reached radio host Greg Knapp on Kansas’ KCMO-AM and the radio show "Morning Show With Sean and Frank" on Maryland’s WCBM-AM.