Analysis

BBC does massive rewrite of ‘anti-union fake news’ on rail strikes as ‘bots’ mount mass disinformation

Headline, header, lead story, 12 paragraphs and a whole ‘socialist’ but anti-strike character disappear, while new faces pop up in article undermining public support for strikers

A BBC article claiming to detail the impact of rail strikes on a variety of members of the public has mysteriously undergone a dramatic rewrite – including the disappearance of the leading character of the article and the appearance of two new ‘members of the public’.

‘Owen’, no second name given but supposedly a ‘staunch socialist’ who had turned against the strikers, was the starring character of the initial version of the article on the BBC News website. The article said that Owen:

will no longer be able to see his son over the festive period due to the Christmas rail worker strikes.

The 34-year-old from Doncaster was planning to travel to see his 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother in Derby on 27 December, but will not make it because of the walkouts.

He is one of the thousands of people whose festive plans have been hit by the industrial action, which is a result of the row over pay and conditions coming to a head.

Having supported strikes earlier in the year, Owen says he’s now against them due to the festive strikes “ruining” his Christmas.

“I have always been a staunch socialist…but it’s been a year now,” he says. “Enough is enough.”

The Tory Fibs Twitter account spotted the temporary removal of the article but after it reappeared in its new form, Jeevan Rai noted that the ‘heavily edited’ new version was missing ‘about a dozen’ paragraphs – and ‘staunch socialist’ ‘Owen’ had disappeared.

A Google reverse image search conducted by Skwawkbox for the photo used by the BBC returned no other instances of the picture of ‘Owen’. Skwawkbox was also unable to find an ‘Owen’ from Doncaster who resembles the man in the image.

The BBC later deleted its tweet of the article and tweeted that it had removed ‘Owen’ because his journey was “unlikely to be affected by the strikes”. The excuse, published only half an hour or so before the time of writing this article, received short shrift in the responses:

The new version of the article leads with ‘Amelie’, originally the second person in the article, a theology and religion student at Exeter University, who it reported was losing money and missing lectures because the rail strikes would otherwise prevent her from travelling to see her family ‘near Middlesbrough’ for Christmas.

Again, according to Google’s reverse image lookup, the picture used by the BBC does not appear anywhere else. Skwawkbox was unable to find an Amelie mentioning or linked with Middlesbrough, except for one old Twitter account that appears to a different, older person who studied at Northumbria University up to 2018, not Exeter now – nor one mentioning or linked with Exeter University fitting the BBC’s image.

Instead of Owen, ‘Sarah Harris’ of Kent now appears below ‘Amelie’ in the new version. Horrifyingly, Ms Harris reportedly risks missing her work Christmas party because of the strikes, although it takes place on a day when no strikes are scheduled.

Respondents to the BBC’s excuse tweet also noted problems with the article’s claims around Ms Harris:

At the same time, a mass ‘bot’ campaign attempting to smear the rail strikes and undermine public support has been identified on social media, with multiple ‘sockpuppet’ accounts claiming in identical wording to have worked as a train driver but calling for the strikes to end:

The campaign repeats the tactic used by the Tory government or its supporters to mislead voters in the last general election, after NHS disasters, Boris Johnson’s misconduct and busted lies threatened to undermine the Conservative campaign.

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33 comments

  1. This is all totally disgusting. It shows the unprincipled BBC has still a vast amount of the filth it flung at Jeremy Corbyn in reserve and is willing to use it against anyone it targets whether it be a vulnerable woman like Princess Diana or a Trade Unionist striking for fair wages and/or decent terms and conditions.
    The BBC is the state broadcaster and mouth piece of the establishment and unscrupulous right wing money grubbers so I suppose it is unrealistic to expect anything else from it.

    1. Don’t forget the BoE. Now they have their very own unelected P.M. I’ll post more about this scandalous, treasonous bunch when it’s time.

  2. Defund the BBC like right now. We shouldn’t have to pay for a pack of lies day in day out. Nor for the lying liars that are telling them some of whom are rewarded quite well for the lies they propagate.

  3. They claim that China is authoritarian. That Korea censors information. That Russians disinform.

    The country I call home employs all three…

    1. A few years ago they were demanding BBC employees be allowed onto schools to teach kids about what constitutes fake news

      I’d be loath to let the nonce-infested gangsters anywhere near anybody’s children – that’s before entertaining the thought of consenting to brainwash the kids.

      1. Not satisfied with domestic subversion, their destructive, demonic, influence exists worldwide. It’s pernicious activities are obvious in Thailand, Iran, Venezuela etc. This formidable NGO acts under the cover of being educational, teaching young and experienced people how to practise real journalism as opposed to fake news. Take a bow BBBC Media Action. It’s foul influence has been exposed in many colour revolutions, successful and un successful. I believe that our compulsory payments are due to increase shortly.

  4. If the BBC tell you that water is wet, don’t believe them unless you’re in the bath or shower at the time. Thew truth is out there …. but not on the BBC!

  5. Not for nothing is it referred to as the NATO Broadcasting Corporation by many of us.
    A constant stream of propaganda every day.
    The Pravda and Izvestia for the UK.

  6. Transparently disgusting just as the media taking advantage of Starmer’s Brexit change was at GE19.

  7. Why would you expect the images to appear elsewhere, surely that would be more suspicious?

    Kids today are more savvy than we are and don’t hose their pictures all over the internet.

  8. A bot with the handle of ‘Ciaran Redmond’ is also on £75K a year as a nurse and an ambulance driver as well as a train driver:

    https://gettr.com/post/p216nf8d57b

    How ‘Ciaran’ finds time to post on twattler whilst earning a total gross wage of £225k a year doing three stressful jobs with long hours and deteriorating working conditions is something of a conundrum.

    1. Thanks for the info Dave – a liar and fake like “Ciaran Redmond” needs to have a good memory.

  9. Is “Owen” related by any chance to the fake lady vicar who turned up as an “ordinary” member of the public on Newsnight a couple of years back? It would be hilarous if anyone was able to identify who the man is in the picture.really was. My guess is that he is a BBC researcher of some sort.

    1. Reply to Albert Swift
      You are almost certainly right about “Owen” being a BBC Researcher or such like Albert.
      There are many “staunch Socialists” who post on this site. I am one of them but I have never come across “Owen” before. Has anyone ever met him at any socialist event or gathering ?

  10. Must say whoever is faking those “news” items are very poor
    at it aren’t they?

    Almost as clueless at politicking as Starmer and Evans ..

  11. Another aside:

    Some news from Germany that has taken me aback but, first, a little background.
    1. Over the past couple of weeks some people in the US, principally at the Pentagon, have been talking up the possibility of a negotiated settlement in Ukraine. A little hope, I thought.
    2. In February 2015, Angela Merkel made proposals which led to the Minsk Agreement, with Ukraine signing up to it and Germany, Russia and (I believe) France signing as Guarantors. This was taken to the UN where it was approved. With the US, UK and France supporting it, it passed through the Security Council. This meant that it became International Law and it was the duty of all signatories to implement it. One of the provisions was that the sanctions which were in place on Russia would be removed.
    3. Russia ceased hostilities in the Donbas, as the agreement required.
    4. The US, UK, France and Germany failed to lift the sanctions though they had voted in favour of an agreement that required them to do so.
    5. Ukraine failed to stop shelling Donetsk City and failed to provide the two Donbas republics with the status of autonomous republics within Ukraine, though they had signed up to an agreement that required them to do so. They also set about a massive rearmament programme despite having signed up to not doing so in the agreement.

    Here’s the bit that took me aback.
    Angela Merkel has given an interview in Die Zeit in which she says that she never intended that the Minsk Agreement should be implemented, but that she brokered it to give Ukraine time to strengthen for a war.

    The Russian leadership can’t have failed to read the article (Vladimir Putin is fluent in German). Any chance of a negotiated settlement must have flown out of the window with the publication of the article. Depressing is not the word for it. I can’t find the word that is powerful enough, nor the appropriate word for Merkel.

    1. The real worry long term is that a re armed Germany is now the most powerful military machine in europe,arguably more powerful than the UK and France.Russia are seething regarding the Merkel comments and have said they should have moved sooner on the Ukraine
      .I doubt that Russia the largest country in Europe and Asia will make anymore mistakes especially as they are now allied with the New superpower China…Nato are taking us towards Armageddon especially as they are the USA lackys whos main agenda appears to be protect the petro doller and their oil and gas at the expense of the working class in europe and Britain.
      A USA crumbling empire and a resurgent China make a heady mix and a certain confrontation in the S.China sea..Wake up Europe and Britain your government has sold you for a handful of silver…or more likely Gold and a Mansion.in the Sun 🌞

      1. Being the ‘most powerful military machine in Europe’ is a bar so low that even the most accomplished limbo dancer would not entertain it.

        Germany, like every other US NATO vassal, suffers the same problem as the rest of the NATO military. All are outdated, operating and constructed on the basis of legacy systems which are (a) expensive and (b) qualitatively inferior and not fit for purpose.

        Coupled with the fact that every single NATO country is rapidly de-industrialising – either through choice or, like Europe, and Germany in particular, through being a vassal of the US – means the capacity to sustain any peer-peer conflict is so degraded that it barely exists.

        Ex CIA operative Larry Johnson explains:

        https://sonar21.com/the-war-in-ukraine-has-exposed-the-weakness-of-the-u-s-military/

        “I believe we are witnessing the end of America’s days as the World’s Policeman. The U.S. military is an expensive expeditionary force. Deploying troops and equipment to foreign countries to wage war is a costly business. Not just in terms of lives lost, but it requires, as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, billions of dollars that are burned up on battlefields without achieving any significant political outcome that strengthens the security of the United States.

        We are witnessing a new phase of this reality in Ukraine. U.S. weapons on the battlefield on the Donbas are not game changers. The war in Ukraine has exposed the weakness of the logistics capability of both the United States and the NATO members. We have reached a point where the United States defense contractors can only produce 20,000 artillery shells in a month while Russia is firing that many in one day and is able to continue supplying its troops.”

      2. If they thought that a handful of octogenarians in a bar could mount a coup, they can’t be that confident in their military capabilities.

  12. Comments closed, or never even opened on all subsequent reports, so it’ll have to be here.
    Watch Kosovo/Serbia.
    Kosovo authorities are taking steps against Serb residents that would contravene UN resolution on Kosovo.
    Resolution would permit action to protect Serb population of Kosovo from such measures.
    Serbia has signalled that it may be prepared to take such action.
    Are the neo-cons trying to start another conflict in Europe?
    P.S. This is quite important but there is no mention of it in the Grauniad as far as I can tell.

    1. goldbach – Any chance of you posting a link so that the rest of us can work out what on earth you are on about?

      1. Yes, but I’d rather let you find out for yourself.
        I’m off to bed.
        Goodnight.

      2. I’ll give you one clue.
        Kosovo is not recognised as a country by the UN.
        Therefore, according to the UN, it is still a region of Serbia.
        Roughly half of the members of the UN recognise Kosovo and half don’t.
        Five members of the EU do not recognise Kosovo – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece and Romania.
        The authorities in Kosovo have said that they intend to apply for membership of the EU, and the EU is encouraging them to do so.
        What could possibly go wrong?
        Look it up.

      3. Happy to oblige with observations from a real expert in the field:

        https://sonar21.com/the-panama-gambit-a-new-war-in-serbia/

        “During my last year working at the CIA, I had a front row seat to the U.S. behind the scenes effort to provoke an incident in Panama that would justify a U.S. military invasion of that country to dethrone Panamanian strongman, Manuel Noriega. The CIA, in concert with the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, was working hard behind the scenes, including helping fund a failed military coup, to bait Noriega. Kurt Muse, a U.S. Army veteran who was born in Panama, had been working for two years with opponents of Noriega to engineer his ouster. Muse was captured, jailed and tortured (spending 9 months in a squalid cell until he was rescued by Delta Force operators on 20 December 1989)….

        ….Which brings me back to Serbia. If you think that foreign intelligence operatives from the United States and the United Kingdom are taking a hands off approach to the situation on the the Serbian/Kosovo border, think again. With the war in Ukraine going badly for the United States and NATO, it appears that the West is hoping to create a situation in Serbia that will force Russia to divide its forces.

        The ethnic and religious differences separating the Serbs and the Kosovars are centuries old. And there also is a long history of outside forces meddling to promote conflict rather than peace. Serbia’s support for Russia has earned it the enmity of the United States and NATO and is an undercurrent in this escalating conflict on the border. It is a dangerous game because NATO’s ability to intervene militarily has been sapped by its support for Ukraine’s war effort. Serbia is moving troops and vehicles to the border and the likelihood of increased violence is growing. If you are religious, pray for peace.”

        Happy to Janet and John this for this sites resident dunce.

      4. Yes, though I had hoped to leave a certain with the task of finding things out for himself.
        We must throw into the mix that the four eastern members of the EU that don’t recognise Kosovo have populations with a strong religious affinity with the Serbs in Kosovo and with Serbia. To recognise Kosovo would almost certainly result in the fall of the Greek, Romanian and Cypriot governments and possibly the Slovakian government too. Cyprus’ position is complicated by the fact that to support Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence would imply that Northern Cyprus also had that right. The same would go for Spain with respect to Catalunya.
        It does , indeed, look like the US is trying to start another front against Russia. It wouldn’t be easy though. NATO armaments are very significantly reduced because they’ve given so much to Ukraine, and they’re already having to cut back heavily on what they provide. And, of course, Serbia has a pretty well equipped military with a considerable capacity. And then there is OPEC+. They might discover the need to cut back a bit on their oil production. And, of course, the new Gas Hub might find that they have such demand that they don’t have any left for Europe.
        We’ll see.

  13. Given the absence of ability to post comments on more recent articles on this site the following info is posted below on the basis of the general heading of ‘dodgy dealings’ being relevant.

    Back in 2020 the bureau of investigative journalists issued the following report:

    https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2020-05-22/thurrock-council-borrowed-1bn-from-taxpayers-to-bet-on-british-sunshine

    An article which focuses on the risky practice of some local councils
    across the UK financing their expenditure by investing in risky ventures
    which involve short term borrowing from other Councils, Police/Fire
    Authorities, Police commissioners etc. Teeming and ladling borrowings
    and and loans, with interest, to keep things afloat.

    The article contains an interactive map showing many of the key
    borrowings of one Council – Thurrock in Essex.

    Its relevant today as a result of recent reports that the Council at the
    center of this investigation in 2020 – Thurrock* – is in financial
    straits as a result of this risky strategy/scheme. Owing over £1 billion.

    *Although, it should be noted from the 2020 article that it was not the
    only local authority borrowing money in this manner.

    Recent reports over the past two weeks – see essexlive news and the Guardian detail how Thurrock Local Authority is on the brink of bankruptcy with reported debts in the region of between £500 million – £1 billion.**

    **Unfortunately, this site only allows a single link to be posted BTL. Consequently, rather than make multiple posts anyone interested can use their favourite search engine to find the recent articles.

    The question arising is twofold:

    1. how many local authorities across the country are exposed as a result
    of loans they have made or bonds they have invested in under this scheme?;

    2. how many local authorities across the Country are operating similar
    risky schemes?

    Are we about to [rapidly?] enter a period where lots [possibly even a majority] of local authorities go bankrupt and can no longer carry out their functions?

    Finally, given that the Government sent in Commissioners to Liverpool one looks forward to learning whether or not Thurrock – and possibly other Blue Tory run Councils – will be subject to the same treatment?

  14. More good news
    savanta.com – MRP Poll Gives Labour a 314 seat Majority
    https://savanta.com/knowledge-centre/view/mrp-poll-gives-labour-a-314-seat-majority/
    MRP Voting Intention: Labour 48% (+3); Conservative 28% (-5); Lib Dem 11% (+1); Reform UK 4% (+1); Green 3% (-1); change from Savanta MRP poll in September
    MRP seat forecast: Labour 482 (+280); Con 69 (-296); SNP 55 (+7); LD 21 (+10); Plaid Cymru 4 (=); Green 1 (=); Labour majority of 314; change from GE 2019 results
    Model suggests the Conservatives would lose all seats in the north of England, including Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency 

    Sample size 6,237

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