On Sunday night, a shooter opened fire on concertgoers 32 floors below a Mandalay Bay Resort hotel room in Las Vegas. Authorities say Stephen Paddock killed more than 50 and injuring hundreds.
Within hours, Internet trolls and pranksters began churning out hoaxes, misinformation and lame jokes aimed at misleading the public, promoting their own platforms and laughing in the wake of tragedy.
Many of them worked, garnering hundreds of reposts on social media from possibly duped users. It all highlighted a gullibility and lack of judgement too common online: Social media users are far too trusting of random accounts that filter into their feeds.
Take this tweet from user @bloomoreos claiming his father is missing in Vegas. It went viral with 600-plus retweets, but is a photo of adult film star Johnny Sins. The account later appeared to be suspended.
More fake info about the shooting at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas.
FYI: That's a porn star, not a missing person. pic.twitter.com/KUSeexq8mh— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) October 2, 2017
"My son is missing in Mandalay Bay," tweeted user @redevicer. "Please RT I'm really worried." It came with a photo apparently depicting "Brandon W. Kingsom." More than 5,000 users reposted the tweet, prompting the user to advertise his Instagram account below it: "While y’all here follow me on Instagram! ... 💙🤓."
The Instagram account features a youth in skinny jeans posing moodily — no photos of "Brandon." Twitter appears to have suspended the account, but not before others noticed:
Its unfortunate that we still have people like this brother, how can someone be this idiotic. Best to remove the retweet pic.twitter.com/VRZqSXIP6o— Who Dat? (@NachtIstLeben) October 2, 2017
Other accounts circulated purported photos of the Las Vegas shooter that actually showed Sam Hyde, a comedian whose photos often resurface in hoaxes after shootings.
This Is An Active Suspect Sought By Las Vegas Police -- Please RT,— Babylon Slim (@babylon_slim) October 2, 2017
Do Not Approach This Man pic.twitter.com/bJF8CmdA3G
Here's a user claiming his brother was in the Mandalay Bay hotel, and "doesn't ask his cell phone." According to Buzzfeed News, the man in the photo is actually linked to the case of a teen murdered in Mexico.
Help, my brother is inside Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, he doesn't ask his cell phone pic.twitter.com/eMDnCYjXTc— Ernest Nya (@pumaexiliado) October 2, 2017
And sometimes misinformation comes from non-anonymous users, too. Here's Las Vegas-based commentator and "conservative warrior" Wayne Root, claiming in the early hours of Monday that the shooting was "clearly coordinated Muslim terror attack."
He later criticized "liberal fools criticizing me 4 reporting what I hear DIRECT from police & credible news sources." Authorities later discredited Root's account, claiming Paddock had no links to international terrorist groups.
Terrible day. Liberal fools criticizing me 4 reporting what I hear DIRECT from police & credible news sources. I report it as I hear it.— Wayne Allyn Root (@WayneRoot) October 2, 2017
Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner