Communities

YouTube’s Top Trending Video Accused A Parkland Student Of Being A Paid Actor

by Penn Collins

February 23, 2018

Despite the best efforts of advocates trying to change the way social media outlets provide news, it seems that even a juggernaut like YouTube still struggles to parse out the maliciously fake stories from the real ones. 

David Hogg is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Following the tragic shooting that left 17 dead, he’s helped spearhead a student-led campaign for gun control reform. Sadly, it bears mentioning that David Hogg is, in fact, a real student and not a paid actor or pawn of “the liberal agenda.”

But that obvious fact didn’t keep YouTuber “mike m” from uploading a video with the caption that Hogg was an actor. The video itself featured older news footage of Hogg being interviewed by an L.A. news outlet after an altercation between a lifeguard and swimmer at the beach. The video was originally posted last August.

The falsely re-captioned video reached #1 on YouTube’s trending videos list and stayed there until it was removed from the site, apparently manually rather than systemically. By that time, the false information of this type had spread via Facebook over 111,000 shares per this account: 

A New York Times piece examining the bizarre instance which, sadly, remains common, revealed that the poster’s further commentary on the video explicitly stated that those who spoke out in favor of gun control were “crisis actors.” 

Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement regarding the incident:

In 2017, we started rolling out changes to better surface authoritative news sources in search results, particularly around breaking news events. We’ve seen improvements, but in some circumstances, these changes are not working quickly enough. In addition, last year we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies.

According to the Times, “mike m” is a 51-year-old Idaho resident whose other YouTube videos suggest an affinity for conspiracy theories. 

Sadly, Hogg was forced away from both his studies and activism to affirm that he’s not a crisis actor, but a regular person just trying to effect social change. Speaking to CNN, Hogg said, "I'm not a crisis actor. I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to [have] to do that."

Share image via Micah Grimes/Twitter.

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YouTube’s Top Trending Video Accused A Parkland Student Of Being A Paid Actor