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Local experts examine social media impact on Las Vegas shooting

Misinformation, graphic images spread quickly


BLACKSBURG, Va. – As with many other recent tragedies, social media played a big role in the Las Vegas shooting.

While it was helpful in many ways, local experts tell WSLS 10 the instant outreach also caused some big issues.

"There was no way to get away from that video footage yesterday," Virginia Tech Associate Professor of Journalism Jenn Burleson Mackay said.

Many of the images we're seeing from the Las Vegas shooting, videos taken by concert-goers, quickly went viral on social media.

"We saw a little bit of chaos, I think," Mackay said.

Misinformation also spread rapidly.

"There was a lot of confusion, a lot of conspiracy theories and miscommunication floating around on social media," Mackay said.

Everything from the number of guns and suspects to false information about victims and the shooter's political leanings gained traction online.    

"I think it confuses people and it can fuel rage. We're a very partisan culture right now so having that kind of fire floating around online can be intense. It can make things a little bit worse," Mackay said.

On the other hand, social media proved very helpful in some ways, like people in the area marking themselves safe on Facebook.

"If you know someone who was in Vegas, you were able to double check that they were okay so I think there's some benefits there. There's also the benefit of people being able to talk back and forth to other people about things that are important to them. So it's not all bad, it just sometimes it runs amuck," Mackay said.

Experts said it's important to fact-check everything you see on social media.

"Make sure you're seeing the same number of guns in multiple places. Make sure that the picture that you're seeing is the same in multiple places," Mackay said.

Sometimes the best option may be to disconnect.

"Turn it off. Just turn it off for a little while," Mackay said.

Representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google have all said they're working quickly to review and remove content that violates their rules.