“Very interesting,” the message reads. “A friend of mine is a senior nursing sister at Leeds Hospital.” It then goes on to say that the mother had deliberately put the boy on the floor.
It is not clear how widely the false claims were seen, especially because Facebook does not provide a way to track messages posted inside private accounts and groups. Many people posted the message as a screen shot, which also cannot be discovered through a word search. Among those sharing the message were public figures including Allison Pearson, a columnist for The Telegraph, and Kevin Pietersen, a retired cricket star.
The origins of the false information about the boy are murky. According to First Draft, a London-based group that tracks disinformation, the first known post was made on Facebook. But when The Guardian newspaper reached the woman thought to have written the post, she said her account had been hacked. “I’ve had to delete everything as I have had death threats to myself and my children,” said the woman, whose name was withheld by The Guardian to protect her privacy.
Efforts to reach the woman at what is believed to be her office were unsuccessful.
“It is clearly an attempt to disrupt and mislead the electoral process in the days before polling,” said Alastair Reid, a researcher at First Draft. “This is, without evidence, casting aspersions on a photo to cause further discord and distrust and division among social media users and voters.”
The episode highlights how questionable material can spread at the speed of a click, raising further concerns about the role of social media in elections. In this cyle of British campaigning, internet manipulation tactics have gone mainstream, adopted even by the political parties and candidates themselves, particularly the Conservative Party and Mr. Johnson.
A Sick U.K. Boy’s Story Was True. But False Posts Followed. – The New York Times