The Atlantic

The Google Feature Magnifying Disinformation

Google’s knowledge panels contain helpful facts and tidbits. But sometimes they surface bad information, too.
Source: David Goldman / AP

Martin John Bryant was lying on his bed in his parents’ house in Britain when he heard on the radio that Martin John Bryant had just committed mass murder. His first reaction was disbelief, he told me recently, more than two decades later. He lay there waiting for another hour to see whether he would hear his name again, and he did: Indeed, Martin John Bryant had just shot 58 people, killing 35, in Port Arthur, Australia.

The Martin John Bryant I spoke with is not a mass murderer. He is a U.K.-based consultant to tech companies. But he does have the bad luck of sharing a full name with the man who committed an act so violent that he is with inspiring Australia to pass stricter gun laws. Over the years, the Bryant I spoke with has gotten messages calling him a psycho; been taunted by Australian teens on WhatsApp; received an email from schoolchildren saying how evil he was (their teacher wrote an hour later to apologize); and even had a note sent to his then-employer informing them that

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