Facebook Removes Fake Atlanta Shooter Post
An inflammatory Facebook post that was purportedly written by Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old domestic terrorist who murdered eight people at three spas in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday night, was removed on Wednesday by the social media giant because it was fake.
The post contained language reminiscent of racist comments made by ex-President Donald Trump about COVID-19, such as referring to the pathogen as the “Wuhan virus.”
Additionally, the post contained the debunked lie that SARS-COV-2 had escaped from a Chinese laboratory, and accused China of a “COVID coverup” and of “hiding something.”
According to Snopes, which investigated the matter:
This is not a genuine post from Long’s supposed Facebook page.
For one, we’ve yet to see any credible reporting about messages posted to his personal Facebook page, if he even has an account. The Daily Beast reported on an Instagram comment supposedly written by Long, and also stated that the alleged shooter had appeared in other people’s social media posts, including a video posted by his church, Crabapple First Baptist Church. But the article made no mention of Long’s personal Facebook page.
New York Times reporter Davey Alba noted that some visual flaws in this post indicated it was fake. The profile picture of Long, for instance, is slightly off-center. At the bottom of the post, you can see the blue of the thumbs-up icon bleed over into the shocked smiley face:
And please, please make sure to think about the ACCURACY of what you are consuming at this vulnerable point in the news cycle. Things are still breaking, a lot is uncertain. Don't jump to assumptions, and don't share something if you don't personally know it is accurate.
— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) March 17, 2021
It should also be noted that shortly after this message went viral, the Daily Mao posted a follow-up message saying that its “source” could no longer find the original post from the alleged shooter, and that this post should be treated as unverified until confirmed.
As of this writing, no credible news outlets have reported on a Facebook page belonging to Long, nor any specific Facebook posts that he may have written. This, coupled with the fact that there are several visual oddities in viral image, indicates that this post was photoshopped, and that it was not actually written by Long.
Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook’s communications department, also confirmed that the post was fake following numerous reports that the post was a hoax.
“Yes, these screenshots are fake and we’re removing them from the platform for violating our policies,” tweeted Stone.
Yes, these screenshots are fake and we’re removing them from the platform for violating our policies.
— Andy Stone (@andymstone) March 17, 2021
Police say that the attack was motivated by Long’s addiction to sex, FOX 5 Atlanta reported on Wednesday, although hate crime charges are still a possibility if the evidence leads investigators in that direction.
“Nothing is going to be ruled out,” said Cherokee County sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker. “Wherever the investigation leads us, that’s where we are going to go.”
It must be noted, however, that many people are extremely skeptical of Baker’s assessment due to who the victims were and because he said that “yesterday was a really bad day” for the accused murderer.
Six Asian women, one white woman, and white one man died. One Hispanic man was injured as well.