A medical secretary has claimed herFacebookaccount was hacked, after it was used to post false information claiming that a photograph of an ill boy on the floor at Leeds General Infirmary was staged for political purposes.
The woman denied posting the allegation that four-year-old Jack Willment-Barr’s mother placed him on the floor specifically to take the picture which became symbolic of the NHS ‘troubles after it appeared on the front page of Monday’sDaily Mirror.
“I was hacked. I am not a nurse and I certainly don’t know anyone in Leeds, ”said the woman, whose name the Guardian is withholding because she says she has received death threats. “I’ve had to delete everything as I have had death threats to myself and my children.”
The original viral post on the medical secretary’s Facebook account said “I am a nurse myself” and cited a “good friend of mine” at Leeds General.
It claimed the boy in the photo “was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and then uploaded it to media outlets”. The post dismissed the pictures of the ill boy as “another Momentum propaganda story”, despite the hospital already apologizing for his treatment.
She said she had tried to report the hack of her Facebook account to the advice service Action Fraud, although this claim could not be verified.
Claims that the photo was staged spread rapidly across social media and messaging services on Monday night, reaching reaching millions of people after being amplified by Conservative politicians, celebrities and some journalists.
The row over Jack’s treatment has become a central part of the election campaign, with Boris Johnson being criticized forrepeatedly refusing to look at the photographhe was shown by a journalist during an interview on Monday.
Despite the claim that the photo was staged having been acknowledged as false, it has continued to spread on both Facebook andTwitter, largely through individual low- follower accounts cutting and pasting the original text to share with their friends.
One version, posted by a man who claims to work for the British army’s intelligence corps, has received 2, 000 shares on Facebook; another, who said they were a former soldier, has received a further 500.
The same claim was shared on Twitter, where it was spread by much more significant accounts. The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson Retweeted screenshots of the Facebook page to her followers twice, telling them “I presume this is genuine”, and adding later that the photo was “100% faked ”. Her posts have received thousands of likes between them.
According to the researcher Marc Owen Jones, Pearson is “perhaps the most influential proponent of the faked floor theory”, although a tweet from the former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen sent to Piers Morgan may have been seen by more people as a one-off.
While many of the users who initially posted the claims to Twitter shared it with identical wording, there is little indication that the false narrative is being artificially boosted by automated accounts.
Twitter metadata shows the vast majority of the tweets were posted through the social network’s website or smartphone apps, and the accounts sharing them overwhelmingly appear to be those of real people with an interest in politics.
Despite claims of a staged photo, Leeds General Infirmary has confirmed that Jack did suffer due to an exceptionally busy week.
“Our hospitals are extremely busy at the moment and we are very sorry that Jack’s family had a long wait in our emergency department,” said Dr Yvette Oade, the chief medical officer at Leeds TeachingHospitalsNHS trust.
“We are extremely sorry that there were only chairs available in the treatment room, and no bed. This falls below our usual high standards, and for this we would like to sincerely apologise to Jack and his family. ”