Update: YouTube has removed the video about three hours after this article was first published. It had more than 200,000 views at the time. Other videos from the same YouTube user spreading the same conspiracy theory are still live on YouTube.
A YouTube spokesperson sent us the following statement:
"This video should never have appeared in Trending. Because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source, our system misclassified it. As soon as we became aware of the video, we removed it from Trending and from YouTube for violating our policies. We are working to improve our systems moving forward."
The original story follows below:
It's a vile conspiracy theory we might expect from the host of Inforwars Alex Jones, but right now it is the number one trending video on YouTube.
The conspiracy theory is that some of the students who are speaking out against the lax gun control laws that enabled the mass shooting that killed 17 of their peers at a Parkland, Florida high school last week are not who they say they are. They are "crisis actors," paid performers funded by familiar boogeymen like George Soros to vilify gun ownership and dismantle the Second Amendment.
This is not true, but it's what the most popular video on YouTube, which at the time of writing has 174,000 views, suggests. In the video, David Hogg, one of the more outspoken Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who has made several television appearances since the shooting, is seen in a CBS 2 Los Angeles news report. The report details the events of a video Hogg took and that went viral in 2017. It shows one of Hogg's friends, another teenager, confronting an overzealous lifeguard. Here's the video on CBS's YouTube page, and Hogg's original upload.
The only description on the video is "DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR…." and many of the comments go on to accuse Hogg of being an actor "bought and paid by CNN and George Soros." Mike m, the YouTube user who uploaded this trending video also uploaded a video titled "David Hogg Can't Remember His Lines When Interviewed for Florida school shooting." The description to that video reads: "Ask yourself why is he practicing his lines…??? ???" This user also uploaded videos that cover familiar conspiracy theories like chemtrails and UFOs.
As Hogg explained to CNN, his family moved from California to Florida several years ago and he joined Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for its TV production program. He took the video of the lifeguard while visiting friends in Los Angeles.
It’s a coincidence that some random person in a local news report will go viral on YouTube and then make national news for vastly different reasons, but it happens. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that George Lindell, the subject of the autotuned viral video "Reality Hits You Hard Bro" also went viral in 2016 for yelling "Jew-S-A" at a press pen at a Trump rally, but it's true. Life is weird and full of coincidences. Things that seem very unlikely, like, say, landing on the moon, actually happen. It's true.
It's not surprising but still shameful that this trending video is one of many on YouTube. If you watch it, YouTube is likely to offer you videos that claim to show Hogg "forgetting his lines" while speaking to CNN, "SICK secrets about the shooting," and other lies right-wing media uses to muddy the waters around the issue of gun control.
It's only been a month since YouTube was in hot water over its trending videos, which previously highlighted a Logan Paul video that featured a man who took his own life in the thumbnail. As Wired noted at the time, that should have been a moment of reckoning for YouTube, but the trending Hogg video shows that it learned nothing.
Update: When this article was first published the YouTube video suggesting David Hogg is a crisis actor was the number two trending video on YouTube. It is now the number one trending video on YouTube.