Attempts by the Conservative party to smear the family of a sick 4-year-old child have backfired and resulted in the exposure of a massive conservative bot network disseminating fake news across social media.
The public reacted with outrage to the photo of Jack, who was admitted to hospital with suspected pneumonia, sleeping on the floor of an NHS hospital as due to funding cuts a bed couldn’t be found. His mother, Sarah Williment, was forced to cover her son in coats to keep him warm and comfortable. A Conservative voter, Sarah has pledged to change her vote to the pro-NHS Labour Party and given praise to the NHS for their efforts, staying that she is “frustrated about the system and the lack of beds, which I am presuming is due to a lack of funding to the NHS to deliver the services that are required.”
The scandal deepened when Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to look at the photo of Jack laying on the floor, commentators decrying his reaction as entirely without empathy and “sociopathic” as he instead stole an interviewers phone to avoid looking at the sick child.
Instead of at least apologising, the Conservative Party has seemingly decided to attempt to brand the entire affair as “fake news”, despite management and staff at the hospital all confirming the veracity of the original story.
Soon after the Prime Minister’s disgraceful reaction, online accounts began repeating the same message over and over, posting to their profiles, Facebook pages and Facebook groups, attempting to claim the incident never happened. The single repeated message over and over suggests the use of a bot network, either utilising premade accounts for the automatic spreading of propaganda or using hacked accounts.
The origin point for the story appears to be Sheree Jenner-Hepburn, a medical secretary to her GP husband.
While unnamed in The Guardian, it would appear to be Jenner-Hepburn who has claimed that her account was hacked.
“I was hacked. I am not a nurse and I certainly don’t know anyone in Leeds. I’ve had to delete everything as I have had death threats to myself and my children.”Anonymous medical secetary, The Guardian
Interestingly Jenner-Hepburn has deleted her Facebook account and her son Oliver Hepburn is friends with Matt Hancock MP, the Health Secretary.
It was earlier in the day that Matt Hancock was at the centre of another fake news story as the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, ITV’s Robert Peston, The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn and others all printed an allegation on Twitter that an aide to Hancock had been punched in the face at Leeds Hospital. This allegation, given to these journalists by “senior Tory sources”, was reprinted without any kind of scrutiny or verification. The claim was entirely fictitious and the source has not been revealed.