In the hours after a mass shooting Saturday, a right-wing conspiracy website used bogus “evidence” from a reputation management website to spread misinformation about the accused gunman.
After initial reports identified Patrick Crusius as the alleged gunman behind the the El Paso Walmart massacre that left 22 people dead and more wounded, Jim Hoft, founder of the right-wing conspiracy website The Gateway Pundit, presented an inaccurate picture of Crusius to his readers.
Selectively plucking information from the reputation management website MyLife, which can be edited anonymously by anyone, Hoft (pictured above) set about reporting that the gunman was really a Democrat, and that “Leftists” on the web were editing the gunman’s MyLife profile in real time. Here’s his headline from Saturday:
But Hoft’s post left out crucial information. For one thing, it asserted that the gunman’s “original” profile on MyLife “said he was a registered Democrat.”
However, earlier archived versions of the profile do not list any party affiliation. Here’s the first version of the profile saved on the Internet Archive on Saturday.
A few minutes later, as the shooting became national news and after edits were made to the gunman’s page, the MyLife profile said the gunman was “currently a registered Democrat Party; ethnicity is Antifa; and religious views are listed as Antifa.”
Someone had apparently edited the page to identify the gunman as a Democrat — only after he was identified as the gunman.
Hoft cited yet another edited version of the MyLife profile, which identified the gunman as a Democrat and his religion as Christian, as the “original” version of the page.
Within minutes, Hoft reported, the profile had been changed to identify the gunman as a Republican. “Leftists changed” it, Hoft claimed.
The conspiracy website, which was given temporary White House press credentials early in the Trump administration, did stumble upon an obvious truth about MyLife: It’s easily edited and thus not a reliable source of biographical information. And yet, for whatever reason, Hoft assumed he had witnessed to a left-wing conspiracy.
Only later, as the MyLife page was edited over and over again, did Hoft add an update — albeit with more unproven claims.
“UPDATE— The MyLife page was created AFTER the El Paso shooting. Democrats then jumped in and changed it to make it look like he was a Republican.
In addition to it being unclear who edited the page and for what reason, it’s also unclear whether the profile itself was first created before or after the shooting. What is confirmed by archived versions of the page is that, initially on Saturday, it did not contain information about the gunman’s party affiliation or religious beliefs.
That material only appeared after Crusius’ name was connected to the massacre in El Paso — when his digital footprint was a battleground of misinformation.
Subsequent archived versions show that battle in realtime. One version, from Sunday morning, reads: “HELLO I AM EDITING YOUR INTERNET. Get off of this webpage and find a reputable source.”