On June 12th,2016, the Pulse Nightclub Shooting occurred. The gunman, Omar Matten, opened fire at the Orlando Club resulting in 49 killed and 53 wounded. This tragic event caused an outcry across the nation causing many rumors and fake news articles to surface. In the mists of all this fake news, an article by the Atlanta Sun-Times had reported news of the massacre several hours before the event took place.
The Sun-Times Network report about the attack at an Orlando nightclub was picked up by the Google news search engine 6 hours before the attack! The Atlanta Sun-Times had the story dated and posted June 11, 2016, at 8:00 PM. The attack occurred around 2:00 AM that the following night. Google’s news system is entirely computerized. It automatically scans thousands of news sites hundreds of times a day, generates a connection to news articles inside Google, and then adds a Google time stamp when the story is acquired by Google (not when the story shows it was published). Google’s news system reveals that the story was picked up by Google before the attack.
Snopes.com is a website that is dedicated to fact-checking false articles and sources. They took a look at this article and tried to decode the article to find out the true date and time this article was published.
The Atlanta Sun Times’ report was incorrectly timestamped. These timestamps suggested a technical error. snopes.com contacted the Atlanta Sun-Times to try and get answers this article had ended up being misdated.
Atlanta Sun-Times responded saying:
“My apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I wanted to dig into this and get you an accurate answer on the timestamp error. Here’s what I discovered:
As you pointed out, the story in question is an aggregation from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We aggregate content from RSS feeds and through a method called scraping. When we do scrape, we rely on the timestamp of the source article. Sometimes the source article does not include a timezone and by default, our systems assume and apply a GMT timezone; In this case, it resulted in timestamping the aggregated post on our site to the day before the tragedy even took place.
It’s a flaw in the system that we are working to correct.”
Atlanta Sun-Times wasn’t the only website that posted a contradistinct story. In doing my research, I found that Superstation95 was another page that posted a similar article. But unlike Atlanta Sun-Times, Superstation95 never addressed their mistake or refuted their claim. In doing a deep search, Superstation95 has had their whole page taken off the internet and no trace of the article could be found.
In this day in age of false news and advertisement, it’s hard to distinguish the truth in many of these news articles everywhere. Fake news will be around for a very long time. Fact-checking sources and articles are super important in the danger of society we face today. The internet is a great source of news and entertainment, but it has caused so much harm and it has fallen into the hands of dangerous people. Fake news is all around. Let’s put an end to it.
LaCapria, Kim. FALSE: Google News Reported Orlando Pulse Shooting Hours in Advance. 21 June 2016, www.snopes.com/fact-check/google-orlando-pulse-shooting-advance/.
Zambelich, Ariel, and Alyson Hurt. 3 Hours IN Orlando: Piecing Together an Attack and Its Aftermath. 26 June 2016, www.npr.org/2016/06/16/482322488/orlando-shooting-what-happened-update.
by, Published. “Google Search Engine Picked-Up ORLANDO ATTACK NEWS STORY 6 Hours BEFORE Attack Took Place!” From the Trenches World Report, 16 June 2016, fromthetrenchesworldreport.com/google-search-engine-picked-up-orlando-attack-news-story-6-hours-before-attack-took-place/162478.