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Gun violence in the US

YouTube hoses down wild Florida shooting conspiracy theory: this survivor is a ‘crisis actor’

‘I’m not a crisis actor. I’m someone who had to witness and live through this’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 7:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

A top trending video on YouTube suggesting an outspoken survivor of the Parkland school shooting is actually a “crisis actor” has been taken off the video platform.

“This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying,” a note replacing the clip read Wednesday afternoon.

In the days after suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire in the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, David Hogg has demanded government officials consider stricter gun laws.

The 17-year-old student’s candid critiques of the US gun violence epidemic landed him at the centre of a smear campaign, sparked in part by a YouTube video titled “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR.”

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The clip, briefly featured at the top of YouTube’s trending list Wednesday morning, shows a local news clip detailing a confrontation between a lifeguard and a group of beachgoers in the Los Angeles area.

“We felt threatened,” Hogg said of their encounter with the lifeguard. “He seemed unpredictable.”

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The video had more than 200,000 views before it was taken down from the site.

“Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it,” YouTube said in a statement. “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.”

Still, conspiracy theorists held up the interview as well as clips of Hogg practising lines for a television appearance to suggest the teen is a “crisis actor” – or a person who follows tragedies and high-profile situations as they happen.

Outlets like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit stoked the rumour mill, reporting there are “questions swirling” over media appearances of those who survived the school shooting – which left 17 students and teachers dead.

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Benjamin Kelly, who worked as district secretary for Florida state Representative Shawn Harrison, was fired after he alleged Hogg and classmate Emma Gonzalez were “not students here but actors that travel to various crises when they happen.”

A simple internet search for the students could’ve easily debunked such venomous theories.

A report in the Stoneman Douglas student newspaper, The Eagle Eye, offers additional insight into the Hogg’s brush with media in California – he’d been on vacation at the time, not working as an actor.

And it’s not the only time the student newspaper placed Hogg at the school instead of chasing tragedies. The Eagle Eye contains several mentions of the teen, who interviewed US Representative Ted Deutsch last month in his quest to become a professional journalist.

He and Gonzalez are also mentioned in an article from last December about a weather balloon project and both students have also served as leaders in several capacities at the Parkland school.

“I’m not a crisis actor,” Hogg told CNN. “I’m someone who had to witness and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”

What’s more, Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that both Hogg and Gonzalez are students at the school.

“If someone wants to have a different type of opinion it seems that we want to somehow demonise them or colour them as being somehow illegitimate instead of listening,” he said.