Fake ‘nurses’ propaganda tweets distract from further government coronavirus shambles

Coronavirus Boris Johnson
Tom Coburg

Over 100 fake twitter accounts of ‘nurses’, offering support to the Cabinet’s coronavirus (Covid-19) strategy, have apparently appeared, then suddenly disappeared. There has been speculation on Twitter as to their origin.

This distraction comes at a time when details of government cock-ups regarding the outbreak appear almost daily.

Fake accounts

A claim has emerged that someone, either an employee with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), or via a contracted “marketing agency”, created 128 fake NHS twitter accounts. It’s alleged that postings on those accounts came from one person and “4 assigned contributors”, using the Hootsuite tool:

It’s further claimed that the source is a person currently working for the department:

The accounts were apparently promoting the government line at any one moment in time, so herd immunity one day, end of lockdown (and back to herd immunity) another day:

Denial

But when the matter was raised with the DHSC, the accounts suddenly disappeared:

This one, for example:

And it turns out that the nurse named ‘Susan’ is apparently called Mia:

The DHSC has denied all responsibility:

Some people wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate joke:

Journalist Nafeez Ahmed states that if it turns out that a department of the government is responsible for these fake accounts, then we need to know more:

More fake news

Journalist Mark Curtis responded to the DHSC rebuttal by pointing to an article by Phil Miller that claims how fake news is very much standard for this government:

Miller explains:

The UK authorities told the public at least eight times from January to March that coronavirus posed a “very low” or “low” risk

The article lists many examples of government disinformation since the outbreak began.

Heads should roll

There’s another sort of fake news – namely exaggeration. For example, at a recent government daily press briefing on the outbreak, England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries stated that the UK has been an “international exemplar in preparedness”.

Following that briefing, Lancet editor Richard Horton tweeted that the government’s advisers should no longer be trusted:

University College London professor and former World Health Organisation director Anthony Costello, in response to that briefing, has called for resignations:

Massaging figures

Meanwhile, Channel 4 News journalist Alex Thomson suggests the government has failed to keep deaths from the outbreak to a number it aimed for:

Indeed, there’s suspicion that the government is hiding the actual number of deaths:

The Canary previously reported that, according to the National Care Forum, it is:

estimated that more than 4,000 people may have died after contracting Covid-19 across all residential and nursing homes before April 13.

Costello predicts that, due to government dithering, the UK is likely to have the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in Europe:

The real exit strategy

The dissemination of fake news would not be surprising from a government led by Vote Leave propagandists, for its modus operandi is all about disinformation or non-disclosure. Add to that the mishandling of resources and lurching from one strategy to another, and we end up with a disaster compounded by an even bigger disaster.

Moreover, years of Tory austerity has meant the NHS has invariably struggled to deal with the crisis. Ultimately, that means lives lost that need not have been lost. The latest figure – not counting deaths in the community or care homes – is reported to be more than 17,300.

So perhaps this failing and shambolic government should now rethink its exit strategy (assuming it has one). Namely, by doing the honourable thing and exiting from government altogether.

Featured image via Pixabay – Tumisu / YouTube – ITV News

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  • Show Comments
    1. https://fullfact.org/online/evidence-network-fake-nhs-tweets/

      “There is no evidence supporting claims about a government-run network of fake NHS Twitter accounts”

      “For the record, this is not the first time we have fact checked a claim that Mr O’Connell has made. His was the first account we were able to find that shared a false quote that went viral during the 2019 election campaign. The quote (in a now-deleted tweet, still available on the Internet Archive) was claimed to be from the leaked US-UK trade documents, and supposedly said that the US reserved the right to “withdraw all trade” if the UK did not agree to discussions about “the sale of all assets within and partnered with the National Health Service”. No such quote appeared in the leaked text. When asked by a Twitter user where the quote appeared, Mr O’Connell gave a page reference that did not exist in any of the documents.”

      1. FullFact now updated with statement from Hootsuite:

        “We put these claims to Hootsuite, including asking if they were aware of any method for identifying Hootsuite account details from public tweets. The company told Full Fact in a statement:

        “We are aware that there is a discussion underway on social media claiming that 128 fake Twitter accounts have been used to impersonate NHS staff to post about the Coronavirus, and alleging that these posts were published using Hootsuite. Our internal investigation has determined that:

        There is no indication of 128 Twitter accounts impersonating NHS staff being connected to any Hootsuite account or accounts (and for clarity, while Hootsuite’s platform can be used to publish to Twitter, Twitter accounts cannot be created through Hootsuite);
        There is no evidence that the single publicly-identified Twitter account (@nhs_susan) was ever connected to a Hootsuite account, or that anything was published to that Twitter account using Hootsuite;
        There is no evidence of any bulk posting through Hootsuite to Twitter about the UK governmental and/or NHS response to COVID-19, other than to official Twitter accounts operated by the NHS or other UK government Hootsuite customers.”
        Additionally, the firm told us that the only information on a public tweet indicating that it was posted through Hootsuite is the source label at the bottom of a tweet, visible next to the time and date of the post.

        However, they said that this label “does not provide any information on who is using the Hootsuite account or how many contributors are using it, nor is that information available through other public-facing means.”

    2. Must be the same frustrated people who came up with the herd immunity idea. I’d like to find out who these people are. Let’s name the people who lie who are hiding behind within the Government.
      Democracy in a open society means one has the priviledge of speaking to an idea without being afraid to publish his/her name.
      If they won’t on their own reveal who they are, its up to us to publish who is lying just protect this hard won liberty. Who in Government is behind this? Who is only revealing who died fron Covid 19 in hospitals neglecting to mention who died at home skewing the numbers by 30%?
      I am speaking here to a profound corruption.
      Its why we subsribe to a independent media.

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