When it comes to instant justice, there’s no better place than Twitter to seek it. So what if you haven’t yet found the guilty to punish? There’s always Photoshop that you can use to pass of your average Joe/Jane next door as the culprit. That is what seems to have happened in the aftermath of the Paris attacks when an image showing a Sikh man holding the Quran was circulated around on social media claiming that he was one of the attackers.
Here’s how it started:
The image was first shared by @abualut8 on Twitter: “BREAKING, one Islamic State attacker in #ParisAttacks was a Sikh convert to Islam.”
The tweet has been deleted and the account has been suspended, but we all know that saying: “Once on the Internet, always…”
This was soon picked up by others on social media after Khalifa News, one of the largest pro-ISIS groups, shared it on Telegram, a mobile app similar to Whatsapp. It wasn’t long before some of the media organisations began carrying this image as news reports.
Sky TG24, an Italian sister channel of Sky News, tweeted this image out to its 1.98 million followers on November 15.
The channel also ran a story on it.
Sections of the print media also decided to carry the image. It was seen on the front page of La Razón, a Spanish newspaper.
Our attempts to get in touch with Sky TG24 and La Razon yielded no response. The story will be updated if and when they reply.
La Razon, on its part, though, issued an apology to Jubbal on Twitter
@larazon_es published a photograph of @Veeren_Jubbal mistaking him for one of the terrorists in Paris. We apologize to you
But, seriously, how could anyone not realise the image was super photoshoped? Buzzfeed nicely pointed the fact out in this NCERT-like diagram:
Luckily, some on Twitter realised how daft the whole thing was.
Then the man in the picture came forward.
Veerender Jubbal, a Sikh living in Canada, tweeted that he had never even been to Paris.
It’s unconfirmed who edited the image, but some speculate that it was in response to Jubbal’s criticism of the Gamergate movement. The online movement was started in an effort to raise the need for more ethical news coverage of the gaming industry. Many like Jubbal claim that it has evolved into a misogynistic, harassment campaign.
Jubbal put out the real image to prove his point.
This wasn’t the first time social media took the reins of a developing news story to ride it to disaster. In 2011, a drunk man stabbed a teenager in Vancouver and made a run for it. Dutiful netizens quickly found the guy and, to no one’s surprise, it turned out to be the wrong person. The only similarity Garnet Ford had with the actual killer was the fact that they both were African-American.
In the aftermath of the Boston bombing, Redditors falsely accused Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old Brown University student, of being involved in the bombing. He was found dead a week after the marathon bombing.
Twitter as a news source?