How Google's Search Results Helped Miseducate and Radicalize a Racist Mass Murderer
How did Dylann Roof go from being someone who was not raised in a racist home to someone so steeped in white supremacist propaganda that he murdered nine African Americans during a Bible study?
The answer lies, at least in part, in the way that fragile minds can be shaped by the algorithm that powers Google Search.
It lies in the way Google’s algorithm can promote false propaganda written by extremists at the expense of accurate information from reputable sources.
Roof’s radicalization began, as he later wrote in an online manifesto, when he typed the words “black on White crime” into Google and found what he described as “pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders.”
The first web pages he found were produced by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a crudely racist group that once called black people a “retrograde species of humanity.” Roof wrote that he has “never been the same since that day.” As he delved deeper, because of the way Google’s search algorithm worked, he was immersed in hate materials.
Google says its algorithm takes into account how trustworthy, reputable or authoritative a source is.
In Roof’s case, it clearly did not.
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Roof was convicted and sentenced to death in the June 17, 2015, massacre at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston.
But there are many others who may be susceptible to the kind of racist propaganda that influenced him.