Following a mass shooting at a bowling alley and restaurant in Lewiston, Maine, yesterday evening that left at least 16 people dead, state police urgently warned residents to “stay inside your home with the doors locked” as they mounted a manhunt for the suspect.
Misinformation about the suspect flooded social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and TikTok moments after the shooting. On X, verified accounts pushed out bogus claims that the threat had been neutralized and a suspect had been arrested. Police have since identified 40-year-old Robert Card as a “person of interest” in the shooting. While Card remains at large as of 10 am ET this morning, posts featured videos of the supposed arrest that have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
A prolific verified X account with almost 300,000 followers was among the first to post the claim that the suspect had been arrested, and while the account subsequently posted an update stating that the suspect was still at large, the original post—which has been seen over 170,000 times—remains active.
The top result for the search term “Robert Card arrested” on X was a post featuring the same video that has been viewed over 1.9 million times, even though it had a Community Note attached making it clear the claims in the post were false.
The same video circulating on X was also being shared on TikTok, where one post had been viewed 80,000 times by this morning.
Another of the main false narratives circulating in the hours after Card was identified was that he had been arrested in 2016 for possessing and disseminating sexually explicit materials. This was also inaccurate: It refers to a different person named Robert Card, who is also 40 years old and from Maine.
Some accounts labeled Card “a far-left lunatic” based on the unverified claim that he voted for former US president Barack Obama. Others wildly tried to link the incident to the current crisis in the Middle East, claiming, without evidence, that Card “was a Hamas supporter.”
While misinformation about the mass shooting proliferated across social media, the problem was acute on X, where owner Elon Musk has incentivized people to post engaging and viral content even if it’s not accurate. As a result, users rushed to be the first to post updates about the shooting despite being blatantly false.