Football fakery and a new style of Twitter disinformation?

Football fans are in a frenzy. The transfer window is about to shut and many observers of the so-called beautiful game are attached to their phones, TV screens and desktops – eagerly awaiting updates of new arrivals at their favourite teams.

As a Liverpool supporter, my team is supposedly in the market for some big name transfers. One of our top players is angling for a move away and the team has left it late in securing players for this season’s squad.

Usually I take football gossip with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit of fun. Something to make small talk over at lunch.

However, in the past few days I’ve noticed a somewhat alarming pattern that could have wider negative implications for Twitter as a “public sphere”.

If we believe, as many do, that Twitter is a force for democratic good – giving voice to the voiceless and allowing everyone equal access to information – then this could prove to be a sinister development.

Journalists use Twitter as a platform for engaging with their readers. They share their stories and those of other trusted journalists and sources. In the past Twitter had a verification tick but that seems to have lost its meaning with many being able to apply for account verification.

While Twitter may have brought football fans close to the gatekeepers of information, the journalists, it has also given rise to an army of b**ls*itters.

Again this is nothing new. We saw during the US presidential elections last year how fake news influenced if not the result then at least the debate.

But the latest ploy being used is rather nefarious. Several of these fake news football related streams have come up with a new tactic, that may in the future be used for political purposes.

They are pretending to be journalists from reputable news organisations. It is quite a convincing tactic.

The way they do this is by using the news organisation’s web address and Twitter handle in their profiles.

It doesn’t stop there. They then get a few friends, who have similarly trumped up profiles, to push the accounts to their followers. Take a look at the following example:

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A quick Google search will tell you there is no Declan Carey at the BBC. There’s nothing, that I have observed anyway, carrying his byline on the BBC Sport website. Yet on the face of it his account looks very convincing. He even Retweets genuine football journalists and several BBC Sport tweets, making him seem like a genuine part of the Twittersphere.

The pièce de résistance though is this other account, which is convincing Twitter users that this account is genuine.

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This Greg Twomey account is convincing others that this Declan Carey is working for BBC Sport. When you Google ‘Greg Twomey’ it actually shows that this guy’s account also showed @BBCSport in the bio at some point. Quite clearly the two are working hand in hand.

The other fact is earlier on this account was peddling another supposed journalist called Gareth Cambridge, this time claiming to be from ESPN. Once again looking to hoodwink gullible fans.

The common theme that links all these accounts is that they all seem to originate from Ireland. A few people have cottoned on to this confidence trick and seen Cork listed as the location in some of these bios. In fact the first account I flagged up even talks about going to Cork City football matches.

My initial reaction was to pass this off as just ‘banter’. However, during an election is there anything stopping people from pulling similar tricks, impersonating political journalists and commentators to disseminate fake news amongst followers?

We’ve had convincing looking fake news sites. It seems as if the phase of fake news social media accounts claiming to be genuine journalists is now upon us.

More needs to be done by social media companies to stop the spread of fake news. They acknowledge this fact time and time again. Maybe they could start by stopping fantasists from pretending to be journalists working for reputable news organisations.

 

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A yellow splattered bloodbath – General Election 2015 results leave many questions

As the final ballot papers are counted, it’s clear that the 2015 General Election has panned out like no one had expected or predicted.

For Labour it has been a bloodbath North of the border where SNP has decimated it. They’ve also fallen short in England, missing out on key marginals and castrated by the defeat of Ed Balls.

Ukip failed to live up to tipsters prdictions – in fact they lost an MP in Mark Reckless, the Greens are where they were in 2010 and the Lib Dems have been butchered across the UK – they could end up with less than ten MPs, down from 57.

High profile casualties

Ed Balls wasn’t the only high profile casualty. Every General Election, since Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, the commentators are on the lookout for that Michael Portillo moment. Well, such is the unique nature of this election that there have been several.

Ed Balls was joined by Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy, both who fell on the sharp nationalist sword of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.

Then there are the Lib Dems. Vince Cable, former Business Secretary, Danny Alexander, former chief secretary to the treasury and Ed Davey, former secretary of state for energy and climate change all perished.

More questions

But while the Conservatives look more and more certain of winning a majority, the aftermath, both immediate and long-term, is shrouded in uncertainty.

First and foremost, the Tory majority is a slender one and they will find it difficult to simply plough through policies over the next parliament.

The fact that we have a Tory majority throws up questions over the UK’s membership of the EU with David Cameron promising a referendum over the EU. An exit could be disastrous for the UK economy, with Europe being a major trading partner for the UK and also offering us strength as part of a superpower at a time when China is growing exponentially.

Labour pains

Where to for Labour from here? Ed Miliband is supposedly preparing his resignation speech. They’ve lost stalwarts like Murphy, Alexander and Balls. They’ve lost Scotland.

Many were likening this to the 1992 election but some have begun to comapre it to Labour’s defeat in 1983. Either way there will need to be some major soul searching within their ranks.

Do they lean to the left to claw back some of the seats lost to the SNP. They’ve probabaly taken all they can of the left leaning Lib Dem vote, if there was much of it judging by the way their seats fell. Do they go the other way and fight the Tories on their own terms?

Whoever leads Labour into the next election will need to play a fine balancing act.

Scots law

The message from Scotland is clear. They want at best independence at worst a great dollop of devolution. Could this be the end of the union? We may not have another referendum, but the Scots have figured out how to disrupt the Westminster establishment. The question of independence is not dead yet.

Death of the coalition

Yes it maybe that we return to a two-party system with Labour and Conservatives trading majorities, but it is evident from the rise of smaller parties like Ukip and Greens, coupled with the demise of the Lib Dems – this could be unlikely.

But a question that needs to be asked is will any small party join a coalition as a junior party, like the Lib Dems did, following the humiliation the Lib Dems have suffered?

You could argue that they should have fought harder for their own policies but with the way the seats have fallen – Lib Dem seats have been absorbed by a cross section of parties.

Can you blame a small party for running for the hills next time we have a hung parliament? Would anyone in their right minds risk losing 4/5 of their MPs?

My vote didn’t count. Why bother?

Finally we have the question of electoral reform. Once again the number of seats don’t reflect the propotion of votes that have been won by parties. Many voters will once again trudge away from this election disillusioned.

An electoral system designed for two-party politics is simply not fit for purpose in the age of plural politics.

Aiding apathy, it won’t be suprising if turnout falls or remains stagnant, barring any major jarring political events, at the next election.

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Baroness Warsi Islamophobia address at summit

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held its 12th Islamic Summit Conference. The theme of the conference which was held in Cairo was ‘The Muslim World: New Challenges and Expanding Opportunity’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Taj Mahal in Dubai?

DUBAI has revealed plans to build a replica of the Taj Mahal that will be four times bigger than the original in Agra, which was dedicated by the Indian emperor Shah Jahan to his third wife Mumtaz. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sun on Sunday circulation fall

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  2. IN an attempt to appease disgruntled staff at The Sun following arrests of several staff in connection with phone hacking, News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch launched Sun on Sunday. News Corporation closed down it’s previous Sunday title the News of the World 10 July 2011, following revelations of widespread hacking.

    On it’s launch the Sun on Sunday was estimated to have sold 3.22 million copies. The News of the World in it’s final month in July had an average circulation of 2.6 million, a big increase for News International. The launch was supervised by Rupert Murdoch himself.

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    Rupert Murdoch to supervise next week’s birth of Sun on Sunday gu.com/p/35t79/tf
  4. The paper was launched in the immediate aftermath of further arrests of Sun journalist. On Murdoch’s timing, Katherine Rushton the Daily Telegraph’s Media, telecoms and technology editor wrote in her column:
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    he is capitalising on public affection for the Sun and fears that it would meet the same fate as the News of the World. Politicians and commentators routinely attack Mr Murdoch’s stranglehold on the British media, but losing one of the country’s most robust tabloids is hardly going to boost plurality either.
  6. The paper is edited by the current Sun editor Dominic Mohan. Mohan has been the editor of the Sun since 2009 when Rebekah Brookes moved up to become News International’s chief executive. Mohan began his career at the Sun when he started working on the Bizarre column at the paper in 1996. He is joined by Victoria Newton who worked as a Deputy Editor on the now defunct News of the World. Former News of the World political editor David Wooding also joined the Sun on Suday – assuming the same role as political editor.
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  8. EDITOR: Dominic Mohan (above), in charge of editing the Sunday edition.
  9. The Sun’s official twitter feed was in typically bullish mood, proclaiming to have broken another “exclusive” on the launch of it’s sister paper:
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    The Sun on Sunday has arrived. Next weekend will see the birth of the first ever Sunday edition of your favourite paper bit.ly/whtjrd
  11. But not everyone was impressed with the way The Sun has been parading around the launch of The Sun on Sunday as an exclusive. Liberal Democrat politician Dr Evan Harris was not impressed with the Sun’s “exclusive” on the launch of it’s new sister title the Sun on Sunday. He tweeted:
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    The Sun boasts that its “scoop” on Sun on Sunday launch is “another exclusive”. Tough investigative journalism clearly thriving at News Int
  13. Prior to the launch Rupert Murdoch himself took to Twitter to boast of the impending first issue and the success of it’s advertising department. A huge contrast between the culmination of the News of the World, when many brands pulled their advertising and led to News International to offer free advertising to charities. Murdoch tweeted;
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    London Sun. Great staff tired but excited for Sunday edition. Yougov poll shows 90pc awareness already. Big announcements start tomorrow.
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    More good Sun news. We’re completely sold out for advertising!
  16. News of the papers launch won’t have come as a suprise as a unknown company had taken the domain name in the immediate aftermath of the News of the World closing.
  17. The news of the launch of the paper won’t have gone down too well on Merseyside. Where the Sun has been boycotted on a widepread scale, due to it’s distorted coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. The paper accused fans of Liverpool Football Club of picking victims pockets and beating up police. Emotions are still raw on Merseyside when it comes to the Hillsborough stadium disaster which saw 96 fans die. Families of the victims have demanded for justice through the Justice For The 96 campaign.
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  19. This is what the Don’t Buy The Sun website reads;
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    Following the latest hacking scandal, we, as Liverpool supporters, have a duty to keep the pressure up on Rupert Murdoch and his continued involvement with News International and more importantly the Sun newspaper.

    We all know the lies this rag printed about our fellow Liverpool supporters after the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989.

  21. The launch will also upset many who are campaigning for media ethics reform with the paper being launch in the midst of the Leveson inquiry triggered by revelations of widespread hacking at News of the World. As they believe that this would distract from Leveson. Labour MP Tom Watsonwas one of the politicians who got to grill Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch at a committee last year. He has recently released a book called Dial M for Murdoch, in which he outlines wrongdoing by journalists at news International owned newspapers.
  22. At the committee Murdoch was also targeted by a protestor who tried throwing a pie in his face. As revelations of widespread phone hacking began to emerge. Including the news that Milly Dowler’s mobile had also been hacked. 
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    Rupert Murdoch Attacked With Pie
  24. It could be that Rupert Murdoch is still called to appear in front of the Leveson inquiry.
  25. The first edition featured Amanda Holden on the front page and a lot of people criticised it for being weak. Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University felt that the paper was too conservative saying, “it appeared unusually bland.”
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    With all the hype I was expecting something new, interesting or innovative, rather than the daily Sun and a few more (annoying) celebrity columnists.
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    Very disappointing front page, think they could have done a bit better than that.
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    Dull, dull, dull. Not a patch on the old NoW. Doubt I’ll buy it again.
  30. Despite Rupert Murdoch and the Sun’s bullish mood, the paper has seen a huge fall in circulation. The paper lost 25% of sales in March, with circualtion figures sagging below that of the final month of the News of the World to 2.4 million – compared to the News of the World’s average of 2.6 in it’s final month. 
  31. Although it has to be noted that Murdoch (now a prolific tweeter, after joining the social networking site at the run of the year) did tweet that he’d be pleased with anything over the two million mark on launch in February.
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    The Sun: great speculation, sweeps, etc on Sunday’s sale. I will be very happy at anything substantially over two million!
  33. So judging by his comments on Twitter he’s got to be pleased, but the drop in circulation will not have gone unnoticed by Murdoch, as he looks to rebuild his empire after taking a pummeling in recent months.
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Cash for Cameron scandal rocks Tories

  1. WHEN co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, Peter Cruddas was sat across the table talking unassumingly to what he thought were potential donors to the party, he had no reason to be concerned. But unfortunately for Cruddas, the Conservatives and Prime Minister David Cameron that conversation has become more than of just a little concern.
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  3. TROUBLE: The front page splash that has landed PM Cameron in hot water.
  4. This is what Cruddas said to undercover Sunday Times reporters “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league. What you would get is,
    when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get
    you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.

    “You do really pick up a lot
    of information and when you see the prime minister, you’re seeing David
    Cameron, not the prime minister. But within that room everything is
    confidential – you can ask him practically any question you want.

    “If
    you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into
    the policy committee at No 10 – we feed all feedback to the policy
    committee.”

    As a result Peter Cruddas has now stepped down as co-treasurer to the Conservatives and the spotlight has turned to Cameron, with many questioning his role in the matter.

  5. Here’s a news clip with some video footage of Cruddas’s conversation with The Sunday Times;
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    Cameron’s man Cruddas – cash for access to PM scandal
  7. But this scandal will have wider political implications not just on David Cameron. The story broken by The Sunday Times a flagship Murdoch owned News Corporation title, has not gone unnoticed by the papers proprietor Rupert Murdoch. Recently Murdoch joined social networking site Twitter and he wasted no time in getting on Twitter to gloat.
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    Great Sunday Times scoop. What was Cameron thinking? No-one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story.
  9. He took relish in putting the boot into Cameron, whom his papers publicly backed before the 2010 general election. As this front page of The Sun on election day highlights.
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  11. SUNNIER TIMES: When Cameron enjoyed the support of the Murdoch empire. Times have changed since.
  12. But since then the Murdoch corporation has been rocked by the phone hacking scandal and it appears any favours Cameron had with Murdoch owned media are no more, as the mogul tweeted:
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    Cameron should have just followed history and flogged some seats in the Lords, if they still have value! precedents of centuries .
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    Of course there must be a full independent inquiry on both sides. In great detail, and with consequences. Trust must be established.
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    Without trust, democracy, and order will go.
  16. The Leveson inquiry will also have noticed this ‘Cash for Cameron’ saga as they resume proceedings. The scandal was uncovered with the use of subterfuge and many will argue that there is a strong public interest justification to this story.
  17. In a letter sent by pressure group 38 Degrees to its members it said: “Yesterday, we got yet another glimpse of how corrupt our political system is.
    “A ban on secret lobbying would help weed out this kind if sleaze.”

    The group called for new stricter regulations on lobbying. It wrote: “New rules could force politicians to reveal who they’re meeting and what they talked about.”

  18. Political blogger Guido Fawkes has leaked a feather smoothing letter from Peter Cruddas’s replacement as co-treasurer for the Tories, Stanley Fink here it is in full:
  19. Initially Downing Street refused to release the list of people who the Prime Minister dined with but Cameron has agreed to release a full list of dinners with donors.
  20. The reaction from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations;
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    ‘The CIPR strongly condemns the notion that cash can gain access to policy makers. Public affairs professionals know the limits of influence, and that a well-argued policy paper sent to Whitehall and Westminster is far more effective than a photograph with the Prime Minister or contact with the Number 10 Policy Unit. The latter access can be achieved through hard work, a well-written argument and knowledge of how policy making really works.

    ‘The CIPR has long argued for universal transparency for all those involved in lobbying activity and we will continue to do so in its formal written response to the Cabinet Office’s proposals to Introduce a Statutory Register of Lobbyists.’

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