False claim the Texas school shooter was trans spread from 4chan and was quickly pushed by GOP influencers
- In the wake of the Uvalde mas shooting, disinformation about the identity of the shooter began to spread.
- GOP Rep. Paul Gosar spread the false claim that the shooter was a "transexual leftist illegal alien."
In the hours after the mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and 2 adults dead, rumors and disinformation about the shooter began to spread.
Among them was the claim promoted by Republican Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar in a now-deleted tweet that the shooter was a "transexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos."
The post was wrong on all counts, including the name, which was Salvador not Salvatore.
—Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) May 25, 2022
The claim originated on 4chan, a largely unmoderated messaging board and online hub popular with far-right extremists.
The way it spread from fringe websites to the social-media feeds of public figures with millions of followers is emblematic of the way far-right disinformation travels online.
Insider contacted Gosar's representatives for an explanation of how he made the claim, but did not immediately receive a response.
According to analysts, those spreading these false claims about horrific events have two aims: to push anti-trans hatred and to divert debate about the shooting away from issues like gun-control legislation.
"The far-right generally have identified a pressure point, and have had success, in targeting trans people as part of a wider campaign to intensify hatred against minorities," said Joe Ondrak, lead investigator at Logically AI, a UK-based organisation that tracks online disinformation.
He pointed out that after a 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had claimed the perpertator was a "transgendered leftist", citing a false report in The Gateway Pundit.
4Chan users in the hours after the shooting began posting pictures of trans women taken from their social media feeds and falsely claiming they showed the shooter. The transgender women had nothing to do with what happened.
Among the pictures was that of a Reddit user, Sam, who was subjected to abuse and trolling. She later posted a picture of herself taken after the shooting to prove it wasn't her.
"People are threatening me and harassing me for no reason," she wrote."They are actively trying to ruin my life instead of helping the families who were affected."
The TransSafety network, a UK-based organisation that monitors threats and hate speech, said that pictures of at least three trans women were being shared in the hope of substantiating the false identity.
"These viral tweets combined published photos of the actual shooter with pictures of 3 different trans people wearing skirts (none of which was the shooter), one waving a trans pride flag," the organisation said. It said it had contacted all three individuals to offer support.
Ondrak said the claims emerged from the online "haunts of the alt-right diaspora."
"Multiple instances of this claim have emerged from these areas, which have then been boosted by high reach personalities who may have picked it up from the generalised noise."
—Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) May 25, 2022
After Gosar pushed the claim, other right-wing figures followed suit. Candace Owens, a right-wing influencer, told her three million Twitter followers that photos showed the shooter "cross dressing."
Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, also falsely claimed the shooter was trans on his Infowars show Wednesday.
Jones is currently facing multi-million dollar liabilities for spreading false claims the Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting in 2012 was a "false flag," or staged.
Insider contacted Twitter for comment. Insider also attempted to reach Owens and Jones.
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