A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Explaining Conspiracy Theories


FactCheck.org staff writer Saranac Hale Spencer appeared on The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR, a Connecticut public radio station, to talk about the conspiracy theories and misinformation that spread online after the deadly shooting on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

A week after the massacre, the top trending video on YouTube espoused the idea that the students who had survived were actually just “crisis actors” employed to further a liberal, anti-gun agenda during media interviews about the tragedy. More than two dozen stories advancing the same message swarmed Facebook. None of it was true.

That conspiracy theory was focused in particular on 17-year-old student David Hogg. One hoax claimed Hogg was actually a 28-year-old man who was arrested in South Carolina, and another claimed he had graduated in 2015 from Redondo Shores Continuation High School, which is for at-risk students, in California. In fact, Hogg is an active student at Stoneman Douglas High School, where he is in the astronomy club, on its television news show, and president of the drone club.