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YouTube promotes conspiracy videos attacking Florida's shooting survivors

Olivia Solon in San Francisco

Site removes video that became No 1 trending clip as search results lead to claims students are ‘crisis actors’

Students protest outside the Florida house of representatives after last week’s school shooting. Photograph: Mark Wallheiser/AP

YouTube is promoting conspiracy theory videos claiming that survivors of last week’s Florida school shooting are “crisis actors”, in the latest example of technology companies failing to tackle disinformation.

Many of the top results for searches for David Hogg, a student survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, are videos from alternative news channels suggesting he was an actor hired by gun control advocates to push an anti-gun agenda.

One such clip briefly became YouTube’s No 1 trending video on Wednesday. YouTube later removed the video for violating its policy on harassment and bullying, as the platform doesn’t have a specific policy for misinformation.

“I am not a crisis actor,” Hogg told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”

Hogg is one of many students from the school to make it clear that “thoughts and prayers” alone won’t cut it in the aftermath of such a tragedy. He and others, including the 18-year-old Emma Gonzales, who made a widely shared speech attacking the president directly, have used their own social media channels and interviews with traditional media outlets to call for gun control.