‘Sam Hyde shooter meme’ has been shared online following mass shootings for years. We VERIFY where it came from and why it spread after tragedies.
Since at least 2015, photos of comedian Sam Hyde have surfaced online following mass shootings around the country.
Following a mass shooting at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, Calif., images of Hyde holding an assault-style rifle appeared on message boards with false claims that he was the attacker. Two years later, photos of Hyde were shared along with numerous false claims that he was a gunman who attacked a church in Texas.
More recently, on March 27, a gunman opened fire on a small, private Christian school south of downtown Nashville, Tenn. Six people were killed in the attack and the shooter was killed by police.
After the attack, a photo statement to identify the shooter went viral on Twitter.
“NEWS: Nashville police have correctly identified the dead body of the Nashville Covenant School shooting suspect as Samantha Hyde, 31 years old,” part of a tweet read.
However, that person was not the shooter identified by police in the Nashville attack. It was an edited photo of Hyde.
The photos, which went viral after the attacks in the US, are now considered a meme, which is an image copied and spread quickly by internet users, often with minor alterations.
Here’s what we can VERIFY about Hyde and the origin of this meme.
- Archive social media posts
- Archive of internet message board topics
- Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst at Institute for Strategic Dialoguea non-profit organization dedicated to fighting extremism and misinformation
WHAT WE FIND
Sam Hyde is a real person and not a suspect in any mass shootings. However, his image was shared several times on social media shortly after a high-profile attack.
Many viral posts claiming Hyde was a “lone white gunman” or known suspect in several mass shootings across the US originated on the anonymous online messaging board, 4chan. The image is a screenshot from one of Hyde’s YouTube videos from his channel, Million Dollar Extreme. The old million dollar pole is removed from YouTube in 2018 for violating community guidelines.
Users of 4chan message boards often do so with the aim of misleading or tricking people into believing and sharing misinformation during times of crisis or breaking news. Hyde, a comedian and far-right advocate, is a popular message board figure.
Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VERIFY that the goal of posts featuring Hyde is misinformation for the media.
“The main motive is to manipulate the media. That is, flooding online spaces during or immediately after an event, such as a mass shooting attack, captures wide public interest and coverage. The general purpose of posting these memes is to mislead and confuse people and try to convince reporters and journalists to name Hyde as a suspect or include his photo in their report. Surname. What started as a joke on sites like 4chan has now turned into a recurring attempt to mock journalists and the public,” O’Connor told VERIFY.
The memes appear to originate from the 2015 San Bernardino, California shooting that left 14 people dead.
Since then, Hyde’s photos have been used in connection with mass shootings that shocked the nation in the US, such as those in New York City and in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Various images show Hyde holding a weapon.
The images and corresponding text are often updated to match the most recent act of violence.
In 2016, Hyde was misidentified on message boards as the attacker behind a series of bombings in New York City. That post said “BREAKING NEWS Reports confirm Sam Hyde as NYC bomber, NYPD just arrested him after a shootout in lower Manhattan.”
In November 2017, following a shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a photo of Hyde holding a weapon was shared. After the photo went viral, Texas Congressman Vicente Gonzalez went live on CNN and misidentified Hyde as the suspect in the shooting.
In April 2018, following the shooting of YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, a photo of Hyde was falsely shared again.
In the case of the Nashville attack, Hyde’s photo was edited and claims were shared that the attacker was “Samantha Hyde”. Nashville police say false statements were shared along with transgender comments, because the police say that the real Nashville attacker, Audrey Hale, was transgender.
In almost every instance, posts on 4chan and later other social media platforms falsely claimed that the information had been confirmed by the authorities.
Hyde’s photos surfaced online so often that it became known as the “Sam Hyde is the shooter” meme. O’Connor said those who continue to trick others into using or sharing this meme see breaking news events, such as mass casualty crashes, as opportunities to capitalize on the moment This.
“It is now a popular meme in some online communities, and they seem to see each new shooting or similarly tragic event as an opportunity to troll and trick users online again,” O. ‘ Connor said.
“It continues to get a lot of views and interactions because of the public’s desire for information and knowledge about an attack. For online users who don’t know about the meme, it can still be shared online quickly. For social platforms where this meme goes viral, it’s unfortunate that they are sometimes slow to apply content labels to misleading content like this meme,” he told VERIFY.
O’Connor also told VERIFY people whose goal is to mislead the public in times of crisis use terms and hashtags related to a breaking news event to tag relevant content. to Hyde and ‘hopefully it will be construed as an honest, informative commentary and not as an attempt to troll, mislead or confuse users online.”
Hyde addresses rumors and hoaxes in an interview with Forbes in 2016. Hyde told reporters, “It’s crazy!” when asked about memes. At the time, he also said he had to answer questions when the memes spread to people he knew, and explained that the memes were a “hoax”.
VERIFY contacted Hyde for comment, but received no response at time of publication.
Before sharing photos or information in a breaking news event, the VERIFICATION team recommends taking the following steps.
- Check the source: Ask yourself if these are reliable sources of information?
- Who is the author or source?
- Is the source of misinformation?
- Have they posted other misinformation before?
- Is it from a well known or legitimate site?
- Check date. Is the information up-to-date, are other reliable sources published on the same day?
- Conduct a reverse image search. If the suspect’s picture was shared by reputable outlets during the breaking news, it could be true. If the same image appears online in connection with other events, such as that of Hyde, then you know it’s not legal.
- Pause before sharing if a piece of information makes you feel anxious, upset, or angry. Misinformation often spreads during emotional times.