By Barry Eitel
YouTube on Wednesday removed a video trumpeting conspiracy theories about the school shooting in Florida that became the top trending clip on the service for several hours.
The video showed a news segment from last year that featured David Hogg, a student who survived the shooting last week at a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 people dead. Entitled "DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR", the video pushed a conspiracy theory that Hogg is lying about his experience in the incident.
The video was seen more than 200,000 times before YouTube took it down. A notice on the video now reads “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying.”
Almost immediately after reports of the shooting became public, some accounts on social media dispersed theories that the survivors of the shooting featured in media interviews are so-called “crisis actors”. The theory states that these actors spread propaganda so that the U.S. government can implement stricter gun control legislation.
Similar theories began spreading after the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut and now often follow most well-publicized mass shootings, with some believers even stating that the shootings did not actually occur.
Hogg addressed the conspiracy theories on Tuesday, telling CNN that he was not a crisis actor.
The fact that a post peddling bizarre misinformation became the top trending video on YouTube has many critics concerned that social media platforms do not do enough to stop such distortions from spreading to potentially millions of people.
"This video should never have appeared in Trending,” YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet, said in a statement. “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.”