After experiencing trauma and horrifying injuries from the worst mass shooting in United States history, Las Vegas victims and their families are learning that the nightmare isn’t over as conspiracy trolls are now harassing them online.
A Canadian man, who survived a gunshot wound to the head, was compelled to shut down his social media accounts after being targeted repeatedly with death threats, The Guardian reports.
“You are a lying piece of sh*t and I hope someone truly shoots you in the head,” a commenter wrote to Braden Matejka on Facebook a week after a gunman rained down bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel onto a country music festival crowd in Las Vegas — killing 58 and injuring hundreds.
Conspiracy theorists are infiltrating social media, spamming the feeds of victims and their loved ones, with targeted threats and abuse. These ignorant folks have deemed survivors like Matejka “crisis actors” for what they believe is their role in a government-staged shooting or pure hoax. They’ve gone so far as to publish viral videos primarily on YouTube and Facebook denouncing these survivors as crisis actors and fake news.
“You’ve already been through something that’s traumatic and terrible, and you have someone who is attacking your honesty. You don’t even have the opportunity to respond,” said Rob McIntosh, who was shot in the chest and arm during the Las Vegas attack.
Matejka experienced the whirlwind of abuse after his family set up a GoFundMe page for him. There, conspiracy theorists flooded his account with hateful messages he couldn’t control.
“HE’S SCAMMING THE PUBLIC … This was a government set up," Facebook user Samantha wrote.
User Josh wrote, “I hope someone comes after you and literally beats the living f**k outa you."
Unable to fully respond, Matejka was eventually pushed off the internet, and he deactivated his social media accounts.
Social media networks like Facebook and YouTube are accused of promoting the misinformation, and rightfully so.
While these channels are taking the necessary steps to combat the rise of fake news, their efforts are arguably minimal given the wealth of false information permeating newsfeeds. Furthermore, these networks’ policing tactics seem to be hypocritical — banning women calling out sexual predators while letting white supremacy thrive.
In the fight against fake news, social media must not only be more balanced in its censorship methods, but also remain fair in its assessment, so readers are not exposed to misleading information and the lives of everyday people are not disrupted.