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Witness testimonies and fake news: how the Jacksonville shooting played out on social | The Cube

Witness testimonies and fake news: how the Jacksonville shooting played out on social | The Cube
Copyright Twitter/Buffalo Bills
Copyright Twitter/Buffalo Bills
By Rachael Kennedy
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Witnesses and victims shared their stories as the shooting took place, before talk turned to false speculation on the shooter's identity


Social media played a large role in how the shooting in downtown Jacksonville played out on Sunday evening, whether from testimonies shared by videogamers of their harrowing experiences or speculation and false accusations on the identity of the shooter.

One of the first tweets from a gamer in attendance at the GLHF Game Bar, where the shooting took place, came from Drini Gjoka, who said he was leaving the venue and "never coming back."

He followed this up shortly thereafter to say a bullet had hit his thumb, and expressed how lucky he felt to be alive.

Other gamers also tweeted their injuries and to let their fans know they were safe. This user, G-Tech, said he had been shot twice in the lower body, but was OK.

Some attendees shared terrifying stories of close encounters and descriptions of disbelief at what they had witnessed. Gamer SirusTheVirus said he narrowly missed a bullet after it hit the wall beside him, before recalling "seeing bodies on the floor."

"I'm so thankful to be alive, I'm sick to my stomach I'm still shaking," he said. "This is absolutely a nightmare."

The mother of one of the gamers shared a picture of her son's bloodsoaked book bag, saying he had been shot three times. In earlier tweets, she posted a picture of her son, Larry, in his hospital bed. He appeared in good spirits as he gave the camera a thumbs up.

Other attendees spoke about the perspective it gave them after witnessing the shooting.

"All the time you hear about these shootings and pray for everyone involved. Donate money. Raise awareness and do everything you can. But to be in the room getting shot at and your friends dead... man," Twitter user Dubby wrote.

False rumours circulate over shooter's identity

Jacksonville authorities said it believed the shooter was 24-year-old David Katz from Baltimore, Maryland, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene. NBC news verified the following image of Katz, who can be seen on the right.

However, before authorities released a name on Sunday evening, there was much speculation on social media of the shooter's identity, leading to several people being wrongly accused of the crime.

In at least one case, a Twitter user with a following of more than 2 million people, shared false details of an account that did not belong to the shooter. The account was reportedly suspended.

Troll accounts shared knowingly false information and photos of Sam Hyde, an American comedian, wrongly accusing him of being the culprit. These fake accounts have in the past shared Hyde's photo and name in the event of other mass shootings in the US in order to disrupt the conversation and spread misinformation as other users attempt to decipher between facts and fiction online.

Several people, who are part of the gaming industry, also found themselves wrongfully under fire and were forced to write short statements to clear their names. The following tweet from a fellow gamer said he had been informed by a friend that his photo had been shared online, suggesting he was involved in the shooting.

"The first time with honesty that I'm sorry for people over the internet," he wrote. "Screenshot so I can sue for libel."

A fan account was also forced to write a statement distancing itself from the shooting after false rumours said the shooter was in control of its Twitter account. In the statement, the user asked that people focus more on the victims rather than falsely speculating on the identity of the shooter.

While social media proved a powerful tool for gamers to share their testimonies or updates about their wellbeing to their fans, it also highlighted the need to be mindful that information shared online isn't always what it seems.

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