A medical secretary has claimed her Facebook account was hacked in order to falsely claim a photograph of an ill boy forced to sleep on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary due to lack of available bed space was staged for political purposes.
Speaking to The Guardian, the nameless individual denied alleging that four-year-old Jack Willment-Barr’s mother placed him on the floor specifically to take the picture, which has been widely publicised on social media and adorned the front page of the 9th December edition of The Daily Mirror.
The post stated “I am a nurse myself” and cited a “good friend” at Leeds General, claiming the boy in the photo “was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and then uploaded it to media outlets”, and dismissing the scandal as “another Momentum propaganda story” – despite the hospital having apologised for his treatment and confirmed the photo’s authenticity.
“I was hacked. I’m not a nurse and I certainly don’t know anyone in Leeds. I’ve had to delete everything as I have had death threats to myself and my children,” she said, noting she tried to report the hack of her account to the advice service Action Fraud.
8/ It's 3.20 am here and I'm tired but I'll wager @allisonpearson is perhaps the most influential proponent of the faked floor theory. Stay tuned for her expose in the telegraph. I hope she interviewed the senior nursing sister! Night all ! https://t.co/FDxkiXzhnr pic.twitter.com/ZfH4u1jUzQ— Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) December 10, 2019
Despite the allegations of staging having been conclusively proven false, it’s continued to spread on social media – some journalists have even been taken in, with Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson retweeting screenshots of the Facebook post to her followers twice, saying “I presume this is genuine”, and adding later the photo was “100% faked”.
16/ If account was hacked, then this is likely illegal under UK law - presumably the Computer Misuse act of 1990, which prohibits unauthorized access to devices. This suggests whoever did it is ignorant of the law, or is indifferent, or both. Suggests it could be external actor— Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) December 10, 2019
These posts have received thousands of retweets – Twitter metadata shows the vast majority have been posted via the social network’s website or smartphone apps, and the accounts sharing them overwhelmingly appear to be of real people with an interest in politics, suggesting they aren’t bots or automated in any way.
Since the emergence of the damning shot, Jack has become a centrepiece of the election campaign – Boris Johnson has been heavily criticised for repeatedly refusing to look at the photograph when shown it by a journalist during an interview.