As has been the case with other recent terrorist attacks, many photos of fake victims and fake suspects have been circulating on social networks following the attack in Nice. The photos are most often posted by ill-intentioned trolls, then shared hundreds of times by Internet users who have no idea they are being fooled. So who are the people in these photos? We took a look at a few examples.
The Sikh “suspect” resurfaces
This man’s photo first showed up after the November 13 attacks in Paris, when internet users claimed he was a suspect. However it was soon discovered that he was actually a man living in Canada whose photo had been Photoshopped to add an explosive belt. He had nothing to do with the attacks. And now, this doctored photo has resurfaced, this time along with false accusations that he is a suspect in the Nice attack.
Thankfully, many internet users remembered this hoax and denounced it.
The Mexican who “dies” in every attack
If social media were to be believed, this man has died in at least four terrorist attacks. Various photos of him have showed up on social media following the EgyptAir crash, the Istanbul attack, the Orlando attack, and now, the Nice attack. As we explained in an article published last month, he is alive and well and lives in Mexico. He is the victim of a massive harassment campaign by a group of trolls who accuse him of having stolen money from some former friends.
FURTHER READING: Who is this man who seems to die in every terrorist attack?
In this case, the trolls didn’t hesitate to tweet different pictures of him straight to the Twitter accounts of the French police.
They also tweeted his photo in relation to a false rumour, according to which terrorists had set the Eiffel Tower on fire at the same time as the Nice attack. (In reality, an accidental vehicle fire broke out near the Eiffel Tower, on the Iéna bridge.)
Another fake victim from Mexico
This woman was also presented as being missing following the Nice attack. Her photo was even relayed by the British tabloid The Daily Mail. But in reality, her situation is almost identical to that of the Mexican man. She too is Mexican and is being harassed by the same group of trolls.
According to articles in the Mexican press, these trolls started harassing her in May, when the woman, a Twitter user with a large following, had made a fundraising call to help a poor university student with her tuition. The trolls accused her of posting her own bank details in order to swindle people, and continued to harass her even after the university student in question publicly confirmed that the bank details were hers.
After seeing her photo appear in the Daily Mail in connection with the Nice attack, the woman, who goes by the Twitter handle @SoyLadyCorrales, confirmed that this was a mistake.
FRANCE 24 spoke to the woman, who prefers not share her real name, via Skype video chat. She said:
It’s a very interesting phenomenon. These people have sad lives, they don’t exist, and therefore they need to be seen. These trolls have attacked me over and over, and they have managed to fool some of the local media, too. They’ve also called my house at four in the morning. I had to change my phone number, and warn all my friends, family and coworkers about this situation. I change my passwords every day. But I’m not afraid – they’re cowards, and anonymity is their only weapon. I can handle it, but I worry about the effect that such trolls could have on teenagers or more vulnerable people. I just want everyone to know that these people do not represent Mexico’s Twitter users; we are ashamed that this is happening here.
“Jokes” in very bad taste
All night long, social media users relayed photos of missing persons being sought by their families. But some of these appeals were completely fake.
This Twitter user, for example, shared a photo of a supposedly mentally-handicapped friend that he said was missing. The photo was retweeted more than 1,000 times.
However, his friend replied a few hours later, and reassured everyone that this was just a joke, and that he was in Paris, not in Nice.
This macabre joke may have made a few of their friends laugh, but many Twitter users were furious.
Meanwhile, this Twitter user had nothing better to do than post a photo of a little boy and pretend that he was his little brother who had gotten lost in the crowd in Nice. More than 4,000 people shared his Tweet.
However, if you read his other tweets preceding and following this message, it becomes very clear that he is just a troll who is getting a kick out of the attention that his fake missing persons appeal has garnered clicks.
When you see photos of presumed victims or suspects circulate online, check to see who posted the photo first. If you don’t know the person, be very vigilant.
If you want to find out if a photo has already appeared in other cases, follow this simple advice: put the image through Google Images to see if has been published elsewhere on the Internet in the past. This technique, for example, can show you very quickly that the photos of the Mexican man we mentioned at the start of the article have been circulating for a long time.
We explain this verification technique and many others in this article: How to verify photos and videos on social media networks