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Orlando shooting: Why are people talking about Garissa?

students after Garissa attack Image copyright EPA

Following the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, USA, people have been sharing a BBC news story about an attack in Kenya.

In just one day, more than 672,000 people have read the story after seeing it on their social media accounts. The shooting at Garissa University by the Somali militant group al-Shabab left 147 people dead. One person later died from their wounds.

But the story was written in April 2015.

Image copyright @Shabeydoo

86% of viewers saw the story on Facebook. The story has even appeared on the BBC news website under current "most read stories".

Why has the story reappeared?

Many people seem to think that this is a recent attack, one that happened after the Orlando shootings, and began sharing the story on social media.

Image copyright @patricksreagan

Readers have felt sadness and shock at what they thought was another recent tragic attack based on religious motives. Leon Sousa tweeted the story, writing: "OMG another attack, what is going on in the world, these poor people, my thoughts and prayers with the families."

Others criticise western media organisations for not covering the attack. Terry Mendez posted the link on Facebook, asking: "Why isn't this in the news 147 students murdered in a Kenyan university?"

Image copyright Charles Askew

Some social media users began commenting that the story was not appearing in mainstream media because the attack took place in Africa, and the victims were predominantly black.

Kevin Falkenberg wrote on Facebook: "If these kids were gay or white you would be reading this in English and seeing it posted all across your FB".

How did the story reappear?

One of the earliest mentions of Garissa can be traced to Spanish-speaking Facebook users. It's possible that articles raising issues of race were then shared which then highlighted the Garissa attack.

Users began sharing an article in Spanish about the difference between the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando targeting gays, and the assault on Garissa University against Christians. They then also started to post links to an old article from when the attack happened in 2015.

But many thought that the attack had taken place after the Orlando shootings.

Sanis Jimenez, from the Dominican Republic, commented on Facebook in Spanish about the lack of coverage on Garissa. He posted that the attack appeared not to seem as important to people because those who died were mainly poor and black. Leonel's Lozano-Lmc in Panama echoed his remarks, writing that that black and poor people seemed less important to the world.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A woman is led away from the scene of an attack at Garissa University in April 2015

Why so many shares on Facebook?

Facebook was unable to comment on why this particular story has become so popular on its platform, as a number of factors are involved in why certain stories are shared and not others.

One possible reason for a large number of shares comes from Facebook's list of trending topics.

Justin Osofsky from Facebook explains that this list is a way to help people discover major events.

In a blog post detailing how the feature works, he says: "This list is personalised - meaning different people will see different trending topics depending on their location, the pages they have previously liked, feedback provided by the user and what's trending on Facebook overall".

Not the first time

This is not the first time the story about the assault on the university in Garissa has had a resurgence. Following the Paris attacks in November 2015 around seven million people clicked on the BBC News website story.

And once again the majority of readers were not in Kenya - or even in Africa.

While the story has not been read or shared by quite as many people this time, the numbers are still growing.

It remains to be seen whether the story will resurface again following another deadly attack.

Produced by Catherine Ellis

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