x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Russian trolls behind Twitter campaign against Muslim woman caught in Westminster terror attack

An account identified as originating from the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency started a hate campaign against the unnamed individual

Five people were killed in the attacks on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament. Carl Court/Getty Images
Five people were killed in the attacks on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament. Carl Court/Getty Images

A photograph of a woman in a hijab at the scene of the Westminster Bridge attack in March that went viral and was used to condemn Muslims was originally posted by a fake Twitter account that has been traced back to the Russian government-backed Internet Research Agency.

The account, @SouthLoneStar, which has subsequently been shut down by Twitter, posted an image which appeared to show the woman walking past a victim of the attack, when Khalid Masood drove a car through crowds of people on the bridge which is just outside of the Houses of Parliament, killing five before he was shot dead by police.

‘Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam’ the posting ran. It was widely retweeted and many people across the world took it a face value. The woman concerned, who has remained anonymous, was forced to issue a statement through Tell Mama, a national project which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents, defending herself.

“I’m shocked and totally dismayed at how a picture of me is being circulated on social media. To those individuals who have interpreted and commented on what my thoughts were in that horrific and distressful moment,” the statement ran.

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“I would like to say not only have I been devastated by witnessing the aftermath of a shocking and numbing terror attack, I’ve also had to deal with the shock of finding my picture plastered all over social media by those who could not look beyond my attire, who draw conclusions based on hate and xenophobia.

“My thoughts at that moment were one of sadness, fear, and concern. What the image does not show is that I had talked to other witnesses to try and find out what was happening, to see if I could be of any help, even though enough people were at the scene tending to the victims.

“I then decided to call my family to say that I was fine and was making my way home from work, assisting a lady along the way by helping her get to Waterloo station. My thoughts go out to all the victims and their families. I would like to thank Jamie Lorriman, the photographer who took the picture, for speaking to the media in my defence”.

Mr Lorriman released other images of the woman which showed her as being clearly upset at the incident.

As The National reported on Saturday, @SouthLoneStar was one of a series of accounts that Twitter have identified as being run out of Russia. There are investigations being run in both Washington and Westminster attempting to address the problem of ‘Fake News’ and Russian interference in the political processes in both American and British elections.