A Tell MAMA investigation has uncovered several fake far-right accounts spreading extreme anti-Muslim content on the social networking platform Twitter.
This loose network of accounts was created in late 2016 or in early 2017. Most claim affiliation to the English Defence League (EDL). Their Twitter biographies make bold claims, expressing deep hatreds of Muslims and migrants. Some hint at problems in their personal lives. Yet, our first clue about the true nature of the accounts concerns how their biographies are written. Take these four examples:
Born in ’63. Chelsea, EDL and proud. Likes: the pub, kids, beer, sex, football. Hates: Islam, Women (especially EX wife), forners and minorities in general. (@CFC_EDL)
53 divorced . Voted OUT. Not fond of Islam and foreners as they are destroying my country. Not racist just don’t like em simple as (@BoozerLee_EDL)
Born in 59, expat, hate foreners, Millwall fan, EDL, down the pub. Hate pakis, disabled, blacks, gays and refugees. Trying to get my kids… (@EDLLoyal)
Divorced. Have 1 son. Age 62. EDL & BNP. Ex National front. CEO of scaffolding. Love England, Pub & the darts. Refugees and Foreners not welcome in the U.K. (@Stevie_EDL)
The bolded parts of each biography are the most revealing. Note how the accounts almost always misspell the word foreigner. This is not an accident. In three of the four examples, the accounts misspell the word foreigner as ‘forener’ and once as ‘forner’. A second clue concerns how all the accounts allude to an alleged age or year of birth. Their supposed hatreds (be it women or Muslims) stand in contrast to their love of pubs.
Twitter did act to suspend Alan ‘Big Cock’ Lee’s (@FUCKOFFORNERS) account. Note how this Twitter handle also deliberately misspells ‘foreigners’. The photos attributed to this account are of Andrew Royston – an infamous figure in far-right networks. Nor is it likely that Mr Royston ran the account under the pseudonym as several tweets referred to his alleged sexual inadequacies. It’s also unlikely that such an account would make overt admissions of guilt over criminal matters.
Yet, in this pursuit of ‘authenticity’ come scabrous, harmful and ultimately hateful messages. For example, the @Steve_EDL account tweeted on February 27, ‘Just twatted a Pakistani mans skull for saying john terry is racist’ at 3:05 am. Just five minutes earlier, the @CFC_EDL account tweeted, “Just punched a muslim on way back from pub.” Now, it’s not impossible, but implausible that both incidents occurred in such proximity. Unless the individuals committed the offences while together, but there’s little evidence to suggest that.
Self-deprecating comments, however, are easier to detect. In one example, the @Stevie_EDL account tweets their interest in incest. Together, these ill-conceived far-right caricatures grow.
Quite often, the above individuals are involved in far-right movements. Others are not.
An egregious example of the latter concerns the now suspended @BigPaulLovesPub account. The photos and information provided in the account are fictitious. A reverse image search confirms that the photos posted on the @BigPaulLovesPub account are stolen from a Flickr album that were uploaded in 2010 from a user in the United States.
Of the many offensive fictions, one stolen photo is captioned: “Ready to go pub hope I see some of you lads there ina while, Know the owner well he knows to keep n***ers and muzzies out so theres no blood”.
The character of Paul is painted as a violent misogynist who admits to assaulting his wife. An entire narrative which spans several tweets continues this fiction, where the imagined wife has taken control of the account in apparent ‘revenge’. Other tweets visible before its removal show @BigPaulLovesPub interacting with other fake EDL accounts.
On Facebook, the page ‘Robust & Reposted Memes’ shared a screenshot of a @BigPaulLovesPub tweet on February 11 – perhaps unaware of its true intent.
The accounts may have also committed criminal offences. As revised guidelines from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stipulate: “the act of setting up a false social networking account or website, or the creation of a false or offensive profile or alias could amount to a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances.”
A communication defined as either ‘grossly offensive, indecent, obscene’ may fall under a Section 4 offence if the intended communication is ‘false’. It may also amount to an offence under the Public Order Act 1986.
To be offensive, however, may not mean a criminal offence has taken place. The CPS makes clear that context and public interest factors must be taken into consideration first.
Twitter stipulates that impersonation is a violation of their guidelines.
The nature of these fake accounts only serves to undermine the very real problem of far-right extremism online. Verified Tell MAMA data for 2015 revealed how 45 per cent of perpetrators of online incidents proved supportive of the far-right.