Families caught up in online confusion as fake news follows Manchester attack


From fake missing friends to images of an old training exercise, false reports in the wake of the deadly Manchester Arena blast have spread on social media.

As people around the world searched for information on the deadly blast at Ariana Grande's Manchester Arena concert, social media was inundated with videos, photos and first-person accounts of the attack.

While much of the content online has been verified as legitimate, several viral posts and images have been reported as fake.

Fake ‘missing friends’

As friends and family tried to find their loved ones in Manchester hospitals, fake ‘missing friends’ reports on social media were mixed in with real requests for help.

Melbourne blogger Rachel Devine discovered her daughter, Gemma, was reported missing in the aftermath of the attack, despite being safe in Australia.

“My first thought was ‘why?’” she told SBS World News. “What purpose does that serve?”

There was no gunman at a nearby hospital

A panicked post from Facebook user Laura Bailey-Wood appears to have started a rumour that there was a gunman at Oldham Hospital – one which was reported by several tabloid newspapers online.

Ms Bailey-Wood has since deleted the widely shared post, and defended herself over criticism for spreading false information.

She says she was pushed into a room with others who said there was a gunman outside, and that the hospital was on lockdown.

“I wanted to warn people what I had been told by nurses, other patients who had been pushed inside,” she wrote.

The BBC reported that the hospital was locked down because of the suspected terror blast 11km away.

ISIS has not claimed responsibility

Update: Islamic State has now claimed responsibility through official channels

A number of pro-ISIS social media groups have reportedly been claiming responsibility for the attack, celebrating with the hashtag مانشستر# (Manchester in Arabic).

Terror expert and New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi pointed out there's a difference between official ISIS channels and the ‘peanut gallery’ of ISIS supporters.

“Whereas official channels have generally been disciplined, only claiming attacks group inspired, peanut gallery is all over the place,” she tweeted.

On more mainstream social media, the Arabic hashtag has been used to send messages of support for victims and condemnation to perpetrators.

'Training exercise' captured

Shortly after news of the attack broke, an image purporting to show the aftermath of the attack began circulating, along with an account of a stampede and a speaker malfunction.

Savvy Twitter users in Manchester were quick to point out the image was old and showed a training exercise held several years earlier.

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