A week ago, on February 14th, a horrible shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The students who survived the shooting have wasted no time in calling for stricter gun control laws. But despite the tragic circumstances, conspiracy theorists have claimed that, because of their activism, the Parkland students must be “crisis actors.” And on February 21st, a video promoting this conspiracy theory managed to reach the number one spot in YouTube’s “Trending” videos list.
The video featured an old clip from CBS Los Angeles in which David Hogg, one of the Parkland students, was interviewed after filming an altercation between his friend and a lifeguard in Redondo Beach, California. Although the clip itself was unrelated to the Florida school shooting, the caption referred to Hogg as an actor. The user had uploaded the video earlier this week, but the CBS interview aired in August. A second video, called “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines When Interviewed for Florida School Shooting” also made it onto the “Trending” list. YouTube later removed both videos for violating its harassment policy.
YouTube issued a statement apologizing for the mistake.
Several other videos accusing Hogg and other survivors of being actors remain on the site, and the baseless claim has continued to spread on other social media accounts. Hogg appeared on CNN on February 20th to debunk these claims.
Hogg in particular has been targeted in these videos because of his outspoken media presence. The survivor gave an eloquent interview on CNN that went viral shortly after the shooting. And at a February 17th protest in Parkland, he spoke out against gun violence again.
We’re disgusted that anyone would minimize this tragedy by claiming the Parkland survivors are liars. It’s unacceptable that this conspiracy is featured so prominently on YouTube, and while we’re glad that the website has apologized, this should never have happened in the first place. After everything they’ve been through, Hogg and his classmates deserve better.