The internet. When it’s good, it’s good. But when it’s bad, it really is a cesspit.
Social media went into overdrive on Saturday night after it emerged that terrorists had attacked in the London Bridge area. For the main part, social media activity was harmless or benevolent; people were tweeting support and solidarity, offering stranded people sofas to sleep open – good, neighbourly stuff.
But amongst the messages of support and genuine concern, trolls were doing what they do best.
A number of nefarious Internet uses began spreading fake news, images and information about the attacks – including pretending that people had gone missing in the area when they hadn’t.
One person used a photo of Jacob Sartorius to pretend his son had gone missing in London terror attacks.
The now suspended account claimed that Jacob was his son, despite the fact that Jacob is from the US. Other well-known faces were used, including Matty B Raps, Devon Sweeney and Vinny. None were caught up in the London terror attacks.
This isn’t the first time trolls have used YouTubers’ photos to spread panic during a terrorist attack.
After the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester last month, fake images of YouTubers wound up included in reports about missing people.
— KEEM 🍿 (@KEEMSTAR) May 23, 2017
The creator of the channel TheReportOfTheWeek even had to put out a video assuring the world he was safe after it was falsely reported that he had died during the Manchester bombings.
All of this begs the question: why are people such dicks?
Firstly, people love the attention. The list of what people will do for retweets is endless, and in this big old game of social media nothing is off limits, apparently. But there could be something more sinister going on. Terror attacks are stressful times, for obvious reasons. Tempers shorten, emotions flare up, and people look for someone to blame. Publishing fake images of young people and pretending they’ve been injured or killed helps to keep emotions running high – and leaves people more susceptible to fear, hatred and division.
And that’s exactly how terrorists want us to feel.
We’re all responsible for stopping the circulation of fake news online
During a terrorist attack, we all want to help spread information – especially when it involves missing people. Make sure to follow these tips to avoid accidentally spreading false info.
- Only share information from trusted, verified news outlets or the police
- Do not share graphic images or videos of injured people or dead bodies
- If you see fake news, report it
Fake news isn’t the only problem online when terrorists strike
Lots of well-meaning internet users can end up making this a lot worse by being thoughtless after an attack. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of tips on how to behave when tragedy strikes, so you don’t have to be that guy.