Man Arrested After Firing Into D.C. Pizzeria Over Fake News Conspiracy
Fake news seems to be the low-key winner of 2016, as it continues to convince your family Beyonce is the queen of the Illuminati, but it has taken a turn for the worse after a man believing a specious story about the presidential election opened fire in a popular D.C pizzeria.
ABC News reports the incident took place Sunday (Dec. 3) afternoon when 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong with a gun. The North Carolina native claims his visit was to self-investigate a theory about Hillary Clinton. After patrons had fled the scene, Welch fired one shot from his AR-15 assault rifle. An employee managed to call the police. Welch was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and surrendered after officers surrounded the pizza shop. No one was harmed in the incident.
Police also recovered a folding knife, change of clothes, a Colt .38 caliber handgun and a shotgun, one of them found on Welch, the other, in his car.
Investigated by the New York Times last month, Comet Ping Pong was home to a fake news story that alleged Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief John D. Podesta were running a child abuse ring with Comet serving as their hub. Owner James Alefantis requested the FBI to remove the articles from platforms like Facebook and Google, but it was too late. Conspiracy theorists flooded the companies social pages with death threats to Alefanti and his employees, an event known as #pizzagate.
With the arrest of Welch, Alefantis is hoping theorists will stop spreading false stories before innocent people are harmed.
“What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences,” Alefantis said in a statement. “I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.”
Critics have accused fake news sites of swaying the mindset of voters during the presidential election, with false stories on both candidates Clinton and President-elect Donald Trump. Mark Zuckerburg released a statement in November about their efforts to combat hoax sites, assuring that the company will go through its shared content with a fine-tooth comb. “This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though,” he said. “Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”
President Barack Obama also mentioned the longevity of misinformation during his tour of Europe after the presidential election. “In an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television,” he said, “if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”