Following the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in the worst school shooting this decade, disinformation has been quickly spread by far-right users online and right-wing activists and politicians concerning the identity of the alleged shooter, Salvador Ramos.
Pictures and messages have circulated on social media sites like Twitter and message boards like 4chan that claim that Ramos, 18, is both a trans woman and an illegal immigrant.
Both claims are explicitly false but find their place neatly in the disinformation and misinformation cycle that has sadly become par for the course after mass shootings. False narratives about immigration, gender identity, and sexual identity help draw attention away from the root causes of these tragedies and instead aim people’s anger at marginalized communities in the United States.
“The author of the massacre in Texas Salvador Ramos was a mentally unstable liberal youth that dressed like a girl,” said Nelson R. Albino, Republican National Hispanic Assembly Caribbean Regional Director Nelson R. Albino said in a tweet that has now been deleted because it broke Twitter’s safety rules.
Albino did not immediately respond to requests for comment through his personal Instagram.
The tweet, like many others spreading disinformation, contained a picture of Ramos alongside two others that showed a woman standing in a dimly lit room and a person holding a trans flag, respectively.
While the person in the first picture has yet to be identified, the person in the second picture is a Reddit user who posted a picture of themselves shortly after the disinformation began to spread, with the title, “It’s not me, I don’t even live in texas.”
Common among posts like the above is another picture of a person drinking from a green bottle. This picture is also not the shooter, as assured by the person herself who continued posting and attempting to rectify the disinformation after Ramos was killed.
ITS LITERALLY ME. STOP FUCKING SPREADING THIS IMAGE PLEASE GOD FFS https://t.co/1riVot5KWm
— Sabrina (@anirbatS) May 25, 2022
Regardless of the continued effort to spread true information and mass reporting of disinformation, multiple accounts on Twitter continued spreading the disinformation to the point that “Salvador Ramos trans” was one of the top search results when looking up the shooter’s name.
Among the high-profile people who’ve spread the disinformation, both claiming that the shooter was trans and an undocumented immigrant, are far-right Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Spanish-language news aggregator Alerta News 24. The former has since deleted their tweets but Alerta’s, showing the picture of the person in her living room, remains up at the time of posting.
Alerta News did not immediately respond to requests for comment through their Twitter page or their Instagram.
Like much of the disinformation and misinformation after a mass shooting, the images first gained traction on 4chan, where trolls pulled random images from the internet and claimed they were the Uvalde shooter.
One 4chan user, who doubted Ramos was a trans person, said “this is good optics. Lets just call every one of these school shooters trannies. No glory for degenerate losers,” according to Vice News.
Another 4chan user posted, “good accelerate.”
Alongside claims that the shooter was trans, many also spread the lie that he was an undocumented immigrant, likely because he was Hispanic and Uvalde’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico Border.
Nonprofit Code of Vets, based out of Tennessee, asked: “Did he cross the border illegally?”
Republican congressional candidate Josh Barnett of Arizona wondered “Was he here legally?”
When both of these tweets were posted, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had already confirmed to the press that Ramos was a U.S. citizen.
Some posts falsely claimed that the Uvalde shooter was from El Salvador. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX) later confirmed that Ramos was born in North Dakota.
Regardless of repeated corrections across multiple social media sites and message boards, the transphobic and anti-immigrant disinformation and misinformation are likely to continue. 4chan’s /pol/ board has already begun spreading pictures showing another trans woman and claiming they are of the Uvalde shooter.
Many Twitter users continue to spread disinformation as well, regardless of corrections, one claiming “it was funny“ that these people were being misidentified as the shooter.
4chan and its sister site 8chan have been linked to multiple mass shootings in the past, many experts citing that white supremacists and neo-Nazis become radicalized on the message boards. The Buffalo shooter posted his manifesto to 8chan right before killing 10 people and injuring three at a Tops supermarket.
The purposeful spread of transphobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric coincides with a rise in violent attacks against transgender people in the United States. It also coincides with a rise in violent tactics used by U.S. Border Patrol against immigrants attempting to cross the border.
Gov. Abbott recently ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to launch a child abuse investigation into parents who gave their children gender-affirming care.
The Uvalde massacre is the worst school shooting since the Sandy Hook massacre, which took place over a decade ago in Newtown, Connecticut.
Ramos was killed by a Border Patrol agent during the shooting after he managed to kill 19 elementary school students in the same 4th-grade class along with two of their teachers. Reportedly, he shot his grandmother before driving to the school. She remains alive but in critical condition.
Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco is a freelance journalist, mostly focused on civil unrest, extremism, and political corruption. Twitter: @Vaquero2XL