comet ping pong pizzeria
A general view of the exterior of the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2016. The pizzeria vowed on Monday to stay open despite a shooting incident sparked by a fake news report that it was fronting a child sex ring run by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

On Sunday, Edgar Maddison Welch went to Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C. armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. He pointed the rifle to one of the restaurant's employee and he also fired one or more shots into the floor. Fortunately, the employee managed to flee and to notify the police.

He was arrested and two firearms were recovered inside the restaurant. There were no injuries reported in the incident.

Welch said that he came to self-investigate the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that went viral before the US Election Day.

What is the Pizzagate hoax

According to the conspiracy theory, Hillary Clinton and campaign manager John Podesta headed a child sex trafficking ring. It also revealed that the restaurant's basement was allegedly the sex trafficking den.

Bryce Reh, restaurant's general manager, said that pictures of children were used to push the fake story. The pictures of children that were alleged victims of sex trafficking came from the restaurant's website. He said that at least 20 of its employees' personal information were made public. He also said that most of the times, some people came to the restaurant to ask strange questions and video tape it.

James Alefantos, the restaurant owner, said that the stories about Clinton were completely different and entirely false. He also told the people to take a moment to contemplate on the incident and to stop promoting falsehoods right away.

Pizzagate from 4Chan

The fake news started on the message board 4chan. It happened after Podesta's emails were hacked and were published on Wikileaks. The message board users found emails between Podesta and Alefantis about Clinton's fundraising project. They speculated that Alefantis' restaurant was part of the trafficking ring. They also interpreted basic food items as code words used in the supposed sex ring. The information was generated as news and shared through social media sites.

Vox explained that fake stories thrive on Facebook because the social media site's algorithm prioritises engagement. Publishing outrageous nonsense stories about politicians that readers don't like is a reliable way to achieve engagement. To avoid publishing made up stories, social media's system must be reviewed by the company.

In November, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recognised the effect of sharing fake news in the platform he owned. He was hopeful that the company could find ways to tell the community which among the content is meaningful.

Donald Trump fires transition member Michael Flynn Jr. over Pizzagate endorsement

President-elect Donald Trump fired transition member Michael Flynn Jr. on Tuesday as he promoted fake news about the conspiracy theories. He continued to tweet about it after the incident at Comet Ping Pong.

"Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many 'coincidences' tied to it," he tweeted.

Flynn Jr. is Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn's son. The younger Flynn assisted his father in covering administration and scheduling duties in the transition process. He also assisted his father in evaluating potential staffers. The older Flynn is the incoming national security adviser.

Although the younger Flynn was removed from the transition team, there was no indication that Trump would reconsider his choice. However, there were growing concerns about his father's fitness for the job.

The national security adviser should have a moderating effect on the instincts of the president, and it remains to be seen if Mike can do that,” Michael V. Hayden, a former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, told The New York Times.