And online searches like this are very prone to error. This sort of thing has been happening for years—and the internet sleuths, as local news stories love to tag them, have often gone awry. Smith has misidentified some of the people in the photos, with predictably bad consequences. A poor tissue engineer at the University of Arkansas got randomly dragged into the mess.
Lucas Wright and Susan Benesch, of the Dangerous Speech Project, write on the project’s blog that searches like this will always encounter similar problems, by malfeasance or actual bad actors feeding false information into the system. “These false positives are inevitable since the strategy relies on imperfect information—yet can seriously disrupt a target’s life,” they write. “As it becomes easier to forge realistic fake videos, such errors will only become more common.”