A transgender woman from Georgia was wrongfully identified as the 18-year-old gunman that opened fire at Robb Elementary School.
The woman, identified as 20-year-old Sam, said she was shocked when photos began surfacing of her across 4Chan, an anonymous online forum.
Users claimed she was responsible for the gruesome mass shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults on May 24.
‘Here’s the shooter’s Reddit,’ one person on 4Chan reportedly wrote, posting a link to Sam’s personal Reddit account, the Daily Mail reported.
“This isn’t the first time I was harassed, but it is the first time I’ve been accused of murder,” she told NBC News. “I’m more worried about the families of the victims of the attack.”
A dangerous rumor
On social media, people have been using Sam’s image to spread rumors that claim the deceased shooter was transgender.
Some have even gone so far as to create collages that place Sam’s image alongside photos pulled from an Instagram account believed to have belonged to the gunman, Salvador Ramos.
Conservative pundit Candace Owens helped to stoke more hysteria about the dangerous theory on Wednesday, tweeting:
“An adult man that wants to dress up like a female is a glaring symbol of mental disease. A society driven by cowardice prevents this topic from being discussed honestly and openly. ALL of our children are at risk bc we refuse to acknowledge—and instead encourage—mental illness.”
Additionally, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar wrote in a since-deleted tweet:
“It’s a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos.”
Sam said she has been bombarded with threats and harassment online since the rumor exploded on Tuesday. In an effort to stop the lie from spreading, she posted a photo of herself on her Reddit account. Standing in front of a big transgender flag, she wrote, ‘It’s not me, I don’t even live in Texas,’ adding that she wants “to live without being attacked.”
After Sam came forward, a number of social media users rushed to her defense including transgender advocate Erin Reed who wrote:
“This has GOT to stop. A sitting congressman just spread a lie about the Texas shooter to pin it on transgender people spread by troll sites, in a state where they are spending more time banning trans kids than they are spending regulating guns. This is absolutely SICK.”
Another Twitter user chimed in:
“They’re really using the photos of a random transgender woman as pictures of the school shooter in texas for jokes. so fucking disgusting.”
Facebook and Twitter released statements about the harmful posts
Facebook’s parent company, Meta said they were currently removing all of the harmful posts from their platform.
According to Meta, the baseless lies were in violation of their Bullying & Harassment policy, which prohibits posts “in which criminal allegations pose off-line harm to the named individual.”
Twitter, also released a statement, telling NBC News:
“In line with our hateful conduct policy, we will require the removal of Tweets that share misleading claims about the identity of the perpetrator with the intent to incite fear or spread fearful stereotypes about a protected category.”
However, Sam said the social media giants weren’t doing enough to stop the rampant rumor from spreading.
“They’ve been relying on me and others to report the misinformation before doing anything.”
She also encouraged people to be cautious about what they read online.
“Transphobic people exist and people are quick to blame someone for terrible things instead of looking for the truth about what actually happened,” Sam added.
The news comes as new details emerge about Salvador Ramos’s activity prior to carrying out the vicious school shooting.
Facebook said Wednesday that he sent direct messages about the attack 30 minutes before the incident.
According to the Washington Post, Ramos posted that he was going to shoot his grandmother and that he was going to shoot up an elementary school.
Facebook said Ramos used one of their platforms to share his horrific plan.
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