On 4 January 2017 the Twitter account @Fox_News_Yemen tweeted a (later deleted) screenshot of a tweet purportedly sent by civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson in reference to a recent incident involving “four alleged kidnappers accused of attack[ing] a mentally disabled man while yelling obscenities about Donald Trump and ‘white people’ that was captured on Facebook Live:
I didn’t see anything wrong with the Chicago Facebook video.
The @Fox_News_Yemen account was created within a month of sharing the screenshot, tweeting first on 22 December 2016 that its original account had been suspended:
I get bombed again???? pic.twitter.com/cdfntLbLIo
— Fox News Yemen?? (@Fox_News_Yemen) December 23, 2016
Although @Fox_News_Yemen’s Mckesson tweet was no longer available as of 6 January 2017, the account still hosted a screenshot of a similar tweet attributed to activist Shaun King:
Both tweets were seemingly intended to stoke racial tensions by suggesting well-known civil rights advocates tacitly approved of the Chicago incident. A common ploy to pass fake tweets off as real ones involves (falsely) claiming a given tweet was briefly published and then rapidly removed, preventing users from viewing the tweet directly and verifying its authenticity. Donald Trump is the frequent target of such falsehoods, and Mckesson has also previously been the subject of fabricated messaging screenshots.
The Mckesson tweet supposedly accrued 144 retweets before being deleted, but as of 6 January 2017 an advanced search of Twitter turned up only users talking about the @Fox_News_Yemen tweet and not a single trace (such as a manual retweet) of Mckesson’s purported original tweet.
In King’s case, it appeared that a tweet had previously sent was used as the basis for a fabricated one. All versions of the inflammatory tweet attributed to him that we found on other platforms likewise referenced only the @Fox_News_Yemen version and not a link to the original. In both cases, popular and well-known accounts purportedly sent highly offensive tweets unnoticed by the media and unreferenced by other users (whose replies and manual retweets would not have been deleted with the originals).
Moreover, the screenshots purportedly obtained by @Fox_News_Yemen (and no one else) exhibited visual inconsistencies: King’s “tweet” contained a comma between the date and time, while Mckesson’s did not.
We also contacted Deray Mckesson to inquire about the tweet attributed to him, and he confirmed he never sent it.
Meisner, Jason, et al. “Brutal Facebook Live Attack Brings Hate-Crime Charges, Condemnation from White House.”
Chicago Tribune. 6 January 2017.