A video claiming that 17-year-old David Hogg was a paid actor was prominently featured on YouTube’s trending section, until public outrage forced the company to remove it.
A video calling David Hogg — a 17-year-old survivor of the Florida school shooting — an “actor” was the No. 1 trending video on YouTube on Wednesday, prompting massive backlash against the company.
The video contained local CBS News footage of Hogg's 2017 interview about recording his friend's viral confrontation with a lifeguard on Redondo Beach.
The video has since been repurposed by right-wing conspiracy theorists in their efforts to prove that many of the survivors of the shooting who have become advocates for gun reform are really “crisis actors” planted to propagate an anti-Trump narrative and push for liberal anti-gun legislation.
Several false conspiracy theories have targeted Hogg, who has been been outspoken in his call for lawmakers and politicians to take action against guns. Right-wing websites such as Gateway Pundit have suggested that Hogg was “coached” by his father, a former FBI agent, to push an anti-Trump rhetoric in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The right-wing movement to discredit the young survivors has gained momentum as prominent Trump supporters, including former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke and conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, have endorsed the conspiracy theories that the students' push for gun reform is an orchestrated left-wing political effort. Donald Trump Jr. also liked two tweets peddling conspiracy theories about Hogg.
Prior to the Paul controversy, YouTube was already facing a massive content crisis when it was forced to delete disturbing and exploitative viral videos depicting children in abusive situations. BuzzFeed News provided the company with dozens of examples.
“This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward,” the statement said.
YouTube does not have humans curating what videos appear in the Trending list. The Trending Tab is curated by a human-trained algorithm that considers view count, rate of growth in views, and the age of the video.
However, YouTube did not address why search results for “David Hogg” listed multiple conspiracy videos attacking the teen with false allegations of being a crisis actor and for forgetting his rehearsed lines during a television interview.