In the immediate aftermath of theLondon Bridgeterror attack last week,Jeremy Corbyntweeted his condolences, thanked the emergency services and said his “thoughts are with those caught up in the incident”.
But there was one problem – someone had beaten him to it with a fake tweet claiming he had condemned police for “murdering” the attacker whokilled two peopleand injured three others.
Before the death of Usman Khan had been confirmed, the imposter post had spread over social media sites like Twitter, WhatsApp and 4Chan.
Alastair Reid, digital editor at (First Draft, told HuffPost UK the fake was both crude and devastatingly sophisticated at the same time, taking seconds to create but proving near-impossible to counteract as its content was crafted to play into existing established narratives.)
“Jeremy Corbyn’s views on things like security, armed police, shoot- to-kill have been repeatedly misrepresented and used as a stick to beat him and labor with, ”he added.
“ It is scarily easy to fake screenshots, whether that’s of tweets or websites or Facebook posts or whatever. ”
How easy? HuffPost UK made this one with a readily-available online tool in around (seconds.
Worryingly, Longman adds that even though he told him to look at Corbyn’s real tweet, he is still not convinced the fake tweet is actually fake .
“For people who had been drip-fed the idea of Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, this was like a laser-guided missile. It went straight through their defences, their critical thinking, and hit an emotional core, ”Reid says.
The exact impact of the fake tweet is nearly impossible to determine, but based on social media posts and anecdotal evidence, it was seen and believed by members of the public – a worrying prospect just days away from a general election.
Ultimately, it is up to the public to check information, particularly that which comes from social media.
“Disinformation is designed to trigger an emotional response and tap into people’s core beliefs. So if you see something online that makes you angry or makes you laugh, that is a sign that it might not be true, ”Reid says.
“ Does the source have a clear link to a party or campaign group? Is it always attacking one side of a debate and promoting another?
“Then, can you find evidence of the claim elsewhere? Has anyone else reported it and are they reliable sources? ”
A toolkit for identifying misleading information online is available from (Full Fact here.