Jo Swinson warns of 'fake news' after viral squirrel abuse story

PUBLISHED: 13:06 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 20 November 2019

Leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, on LBC Radio. Photograph: Global.

Leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, on LBC Radio. Photograph: Global.

Archant

The leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has warned the public to be wary of sharing misinformation after a story went viral claiming she had abused squirrels.

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Doctored images claiming to show an article on the Mirror's website were shared thousands of times across Twitter and Facebook last week, including by a number of pro-Brexit and Brexit Party groups.

The false story, written by non-existant journalist "Wurrance Telephene", claimed the Lib Dem leader was blasted by animal rights charities after "harrowing footage" was found on a private Facebook account.

Speaking to LBC today, she said: "This sort of fake news is surprising to me, now that I am the leader of a party. This isn't the only one, there has been various other fake news story. Sometimes using the byline of an established journalist.

"There was one that used Peter Walker's name from the Guardian and he had to go online to debunk it and say he never wrote it.

"But they're quite sophisticated in that people believe them. I do think it's worrying because it has echoes of what we've seen in other elections. Particularly when you think about fake news and the technological possibility for deep fakes, where videos can be faked.

"I think it's very difficult to prevent the spread."

READ MORE: 'A lie every day' - Radio caller slams ex-minister over PM's lies

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The post received few interactions until it was shared by a Brexit Party account on November 14 with nearly 9,000 followers.

It then picked up more than 20,000 interactions across social media.

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