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The Twitter hashtag #RoomforManchester became a symbol of togetherness as local Manchester residents offered safe haven for those affected by Monday’s suicide bomb attack that claimed the lives of at least 22 and injured more than 50 others.
But amid the tweets from terrified teenagers desperately looking for a place to go, and scared parents doing all they can to get in contact with their children, was a series of fake photos causing mass confusion online.
One of those photos was retweeted more than 15,000 times. It is an image of a young man dressed in a suit with the caption, “My son was in Manchester Arena today He’s not picking up my call! Please help me.
My son was in the Manchester Arena today— Zero (@GamerGateAntifa) May 22, 2017
He's not picking up my call!
Please help me pic.twitter.com/VZxkp6nVBN
The above tweet is a hoax, posted by an attention-seeking troll so desperate to make an impact on social media they are willing to undermine the effort of those working to make a real difference.
The man in the image is American YouTube personality TheReportoftheWeek, who posted a video clarifying that he is still alive. “Some people propagated a certain rumor claiming that I was a victim in the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert…this was unfortunately just an effort done by various trolls and certain website users to mislead the general public with fake news and just try to get some laughs out of it,” he said.
A number of collages featuring photos of well-known online celebrities and memes were also spread across social media by people who were unaware of their deceitful nature.
You’ll notice TheReportoftheWeek’s photo in the one above. The woman second from the left in the second row is a journalist based in Mexico, and the girl taking a selfie with a red phone was murdered by her boyfriend in 2013.
My murdered daughter's picture used she was killed almost 4 years ago not last night not happy pic.twitter.com/NtHBGkpjLY— Samantha Shrewsbury (@youknowimfit) May 23, 2017
Many hoax accounts posted images taken from the internet claiming they were looking for lost family members. One photo used in an article about a clothing line for people with Down Syndrome was retweeted more than 18,000 times.
Another stole the image of a 12-year-old girl from Australia who was in school at the time.
I'm home from surgery and woke from a nap to multiple messages asking if Gemma was safe. Apparently someone used a photo...Posted by Rachel Devine on Monday, May 22, 2017
Some users tried to gain attention by saying they were friends with people who were actually missing.
teens are making up fake 'missing' friends at the ariana grande concert to get RT's. this is so dystopian pic.twitter.com/ghA8HLyydE— jack wagner (@jackdwagner) May 23, 2017
The image of the girl above received thousands of retweets before being debunked by one of the girl’s “IRL” friends who called @cook99official “extremely creepy.” The account has been reinstated with the bio “I love when people get killed,” and linked to a YouTube page with nearly 40,000 subscribers.
These are just a few of the hoaxes that spread like wildfire across social media platforms yesterday, and they won’t likely be the last. It remains to be seen how Twitter and other social media sites will take a stand against this behavior and take advantage of their potential to be an invaluable resource in the most desperate times of need.
Anyone with concerns about the safety of friends or loved ones can call the Greater Manchester Police helpline: 0800 096 0095.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.