Hoaxtead Research drafts letter to European Commission’s Expert Group on Fake News

Following up on yesterday’s post about the EU’s impending crackdown on social media companies, we’ve hammered out a very rough draft letter for our readers’ consideration. We’ve attempted to cover as many points as possible without inundating the poor Commissioners with so much detail that their eyes begin to roll back in their heads…but enough that they can get the gist of what happened, and understand how social media platforms must be called to account for their role in the Hampstead SRA hoax.

If you can see points we’ve overlooked, or bits we’ve included which we could probably have left out, please let us know!

We are a UK-based community group who have been working for nearly three years on convincing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, and Google+ to remove thousands of illegal posts and videos relating to a fake news story which was deliberately put online and made “viral” in early February 2015.

The “Hampstead hoax”, based in North London, made a splash in the mainstream media during 2015 when it was roundly debunked in a judgment by Mrs Justice Pauffley in the High Court, Family Division, on 19 March, 2015.

However, with the help of a group of people who have continued to publicise and share posts and videos online, it has lived on as a popular conspiracy theory.

This hoax’s continued popularity is in large part due to inaction on the part of the large social media platforms.

While some posts have been removed from the internet, the vast majority have remained intact and have proliferated via sharing, with disastrous consequences for dozens of families, teachers, clergy, and businesses. All these people have been accused of belonging to a “Satanic cult” which rapes, murders, and cannibalises children and infants, as well as engaging in child trafficking and “snuff” movies.

Effects of the Hampstead hoax

As outlandish as these allegations sound, they have prompted ongoing threats of violence against alleged abusers, and multiple arrests of would-be harassers.

  • In 2016, a man from the U.S.A. travelled to London to “investigate the cult”, was arrested and charged with Harassment 4. He is currently serving a nine-month prison sentence prior to being deported.
  • In 2016, two women were tried for witness intimidation and issued with lifetime restraining orders.
  • One of the two women is currently facing trial in November 2018 on 19 charges, including stalking and violations of her restraining order.
  • Other arrests have been made, and a number of people remain on police bail pending charges.

Victims of this pernicious fake news story have had their lives turned upside down, in some cases irreparably:

  • The two children at the centre of the story have have their names, photographs, and videos shared millions of times across the internet, in the context of extreme and disturbing allegations of sexual abuse.
    • These children were filmed describing lurid and horrific details including being sodomised by cult members, being forced to participate in the murder of infants, and being forced to drink the blood and consume the flesh of murdered babies. These videos, as well as videos of the children being interviewed by the  police, are now endemic online, despite the fact that it is illegal to identify children in abuse cases, whether the case is found to be true or not.
    • The two children were placed in foster homes once they had been removed from their mother and her abusive boyfriend, but they had to be moved three times in as many months when enthusiastic amateur detectives hunted them down, and their locations were disclosed via social media.
    • Their whereabouts are now unknown, but those who believe in the fake news story continue to actively hunt for them. We have no doubt that if they are found, their whereabouts will be disclosed again, and their well-being endangered.
  • The father of the two children at the centre of the story has been thoroughly reviled, and had his name and picture shared by millions online. We are not privy to his situation, but it doesn’t take much imagination to guess some of what he might have experienced over the past three years.
  • Children of the other accused parents, who were alleged to have been victims of the “cult”, have been investigated by social services, and have had to be under constant adult supervision to prevent kidnappers attempting to “save” them.
  • Lists were released online containing the names, street addresses, work and contact details of all of those who were accused. As a result:
    • They have been chased in the street, phoned at home, and received countless threatening emails and text messages.
    • They have had their privacy invaded by “investigators” who scrutinised and published their every move on social media.
    • Their families, neighbours, and employers have received emails “outing” them as paedophiles, murderers, child-traffickers, and cannibals.
    • They have had to have panic alarms and security systems installed in their homes, and they must cope with the daily anxiety of not knowing whether someone may decide to physically attack them or their children.
    • Some have been forced to move, as they fear being attacked physically by those who believe the fake news story.
    • At least one person suffered a complete nervous breakdown.

Social media platforms’ response

Since the beginning of this hoax, the London Borough of Barnet, the Metropolitan Police, some of those who were falsely accused, and community-based groups and individuals have approached social media platforms with court orders and requests to remove the illegal posts. Responses from social media have ranged from excellent (Wix, Patreon, GoFundMe) to discouraging (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), with those in the latter group removing an estimated one post per 12 requests.

Legal jurisdiction used as excuse for inaction

WordPress refused point-blank to remove blogs which were set up explicitly to encourage others to harass and defame anyone they believed might be involved with the imaginary cult. They stated that they would only remove such blogs if they were presented with a court order originating in the United States, as they operate from that country and abide only by its legal system.

While it is illegal in almost every democratic country to publish material which would potentially lead to identification of children in cases where abuse has been alleged, Facebook in particular has resisted removing pages dedicated to spreading news of the Hampstead hoax, even in the face of a valid court order.

Instead, they keep the pages up, only blocking UK viewers from seeing them. The rationale appears to be that they are only compelled to obey the laws in the court order’s country of origin. Anyone from the UK who wishes to see the pages may do so via a VPN or proxy, and many take advantage of this loophole.

Lack of consistent, proactive response

Our requests to remove videos and posts have been piecemeal by necessity, since none of the larger social media companies would consider simply identifying and removing this illegal material pro-actively. We are a small group with limited resources, and it takes a great deal more time for us to identify and report a post than it does for a hoax supporter to replace it with several new ones. And so this fake news story continues to spread like a cancer.

Social media companies must take responsibility

Ideally, we would like to see the social media platforms accept their share of responsibility for the illegal and/or fake news they publish, and take steps to amend the situation:

  • Once police and/or local authorities approach a social media company with a valid court order, that company should immediately remove as many illegal posts or videos as they are able to identify based on tags or keywords. Such posts or videos should continue to be removed for the duration of the court order, without further action from the complainant. When individuals identify posts which may have slipped through the net, the company should delete these posts immediately.
  • Fake news is often spread via the use of hashtags and specific keywords. For example, posts about the Hampstead hoax are easily identified by such hashtags as #FreeTheHampstead2, #HampsteadCoverUp, and #RickyDearman. Once such hashtags have been identified to the social media company, tagged posts or videos can be more easily deleted. These tags should be kept on file for the duration of the court order, and acted upon with all due speed.
  • Fake news can often be traced back to a few key social media accounts, whose owners post illegal and/or fabricated stories almost exclusively. When an account has been identified as a primary fake news purveyor, it should be removed and blocked from the social media platform, with no recourse to appeal.
    • In 2016 we were able to persuade Twitter to remove a particularly pernicious account, @drifloud. The account owner appealed the decision and was reinstated; we protested, and he was removed again. Then he wrote an angry letter to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter. Inexplicably Twitter once again reinstated his account, and has not responded to requests to remove it since then. @drifloud has continued to post harassing and defamatory tweets about people victimised by the Hampstead hoax, daily or more often. This should not have been allowed to happen.
  • Reporting tools should enable reporters to explain the exact nature of the problematic post or video. While YouTube and Twitter do offer this in limited instances, Facebook’s reporting procedures are both inconsistent and inadequate, offering limited multiple-choices which often bear no relevance to the post in question, and no opportunity to clarify the problem in further detail. 

While social media companies must be made more accountable and proactive when it comes to curtailing fake news and illegal material, we do believe in the principles of freedom of expression. We are not suggesting that material should be removed simply because “we don’t like it”. Checks and balances must be put in place to ensure that the individual’s right to freedom from harassment and defamation is balanced with other individuals’ right to believe and say what they like.

In effect, we believe that one person’s freedom of speech ends where the other person’s freedom from harassment begins.

We remain at your disposal to discuss this matter further with the High Level Expert Group on Fake News and online disinformation, and to assist in the development of any proposals which may come forward as a result of your discussions.

So…ideas? Comments? Over to you!

49 thoughts on “Hoaxtead Research drafts letter to European Commission’s Expert Group on Fake News

  1. A very articulate, easy to follow synopsis, kudos EC on your way with words.
    One suggestion, ” However, with the help of a group of people who have continued to publicise and share posts and videos online, it has lived on as a popular conspiracy theory.”, perhaps the word, ‘scurrilious’, instead of ‘popular’, to describe the conspiracy theory.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I wonder what your not so rough drafts look like, as this is excellent. May be too much, but here’s some comments/thoughts:

    1. why Iceland is a go to for people wanting to publish illegal content
    2. putting children at risk/facilitating crime higher up and requiring a red button/category for reporting child abuse/endangerment – if there isn’t one.
    3. credit change.org who removed the illegal petitions
    4. mention privacy laws (hot topic with GDPR coming in May) and encourage domestic regulators ICO for example to deal with blatant breaches of the Data Protection Act – not just large fines for nuisance calls!
    5. why, despite having the technology, platforms refuse to remove illegal content in a wholescale fashion, making it laborious to report post by post, time and time again ….by individuals only to be told ‘doesn’t breach community guidelines!! You might sense a bit of frustration here.
    6. somewhere I think it says potentially identifying children – it did identify.

    Hope it’s of use and good luck!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Snopes deal exclusively with rumour control and outing Fake News, I really think you should check them out and approach them over the Hampstead Hoax. They seem like a legit outfit but I haven’t researched them deeply.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Snopes is a well established ‘debunker’ of ‘false facts’, been around for years, it was well established in 2000 when the y2k emails were circulating and has been my goto since before that to debunk false emails, websites etc

    A very good ‘rough draft’ indeed Mr Coyote, I dont know f it was confirmed that hoaxers had contacted potential employers of Mr Dearman in the US or not, if it had would that be worth mentioning as it is IMHO a despicable act to do

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Calling Chris Spivey names is illegal.Yet you lot do it all the time with your defamatory comments.This couragious man has put his life on the line time and time again! He had illegal images planted on his computer was illegally arrested and all for exposing the corrupt system. Danielle LaVerite a highly respected writer and psychic proved this and more in her videos….which although removed from youtube will all soon be available on DVD …there is no stopping the truth!
    Your blog is being watched by us all. We are one,we are young,we are conscious

    Do not forget it.

    Like

  6. I don’t know about his potential employers, though I do recall Charlotte Ward talking about doing that. You’re right, if it did happen, it’s despicable.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Calling names is illegal now? Goodness, who knew? So if I were to call you, for example, a nasty poopoo-head, I could be thrown in jail under the Protection from Nasty Poopoo-head Defamation Act 2018? Well, thanks for the tip, much appreciated, mate.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Reblogged this on ShevaBurton. Cross of Change Blog and commented:
    This is very important to everyone interested in child protection.
    It is really despicable that most of those who are responsible for initiating this hoax were also those who conspired with Belinda McKenzie and now run Fresh Start Foundation, to hijack our Anti Child Abuse Rally, 2010.
    They and their followers also have form for attacking groups, advocates for & victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.
    Thereby, overwhelming social media with fake news, promoting liars & scammers whilst suppressing the courageous survivors and groups, events working with integrity.
    In other words, they are causing child abuse, harrassment and further abuse to victims, yet are claiming to champion the cause for child protection.
    So I ask for all concerned with this issue to share this and help us to stop them and for now, at least warn your networks to protect victims from them, forewarned is forearmed.
    Sheva

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That is excellent, EC. I can’t think of anything to add at the moment.
    It is really galling that most of those who initiated and even still share the videos of the children are also claiming to be champions for the cause to end child abuse and also whilst doing this, they target and attack fellow campaigners, groups and hijack our events.
    They are very dangerous and causing more child abuse by sharing the videos and encouraging others to attack anyone who is either disallowing their posts in their groups or helping to expose them.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Examples of things that ARE illegal:

    – Harassing the grieving family of a murdered soldier
    – Smoking around your grandchild after making a sworn statement to Social Services that you never do
    – Having child porn images on your computer

    And of course, when I say “you” and “your”, I mean them in the sense of ‘one’ and ‘one’s’, as these are just completely random, hypothetical examples.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. EC and Scarlet, thank you for not doctoring A56’s comment to make him sound like a twat, a courtesy not afforded to any dissenters commenting on that crap blog Spivey used to run.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. And even if your insults ARE illegal, EC, I see you were commenting at 4:11, but the time stamp says 3:21. That’s an hour and 10 minutes out, so it would be inadmissible in court.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. LOLOLOLOL Thea56.

    I hope you are joking but I think you believe all your waffle.

    “Life on the line time and time again!” as regards Spivey. Pull the other one it’s got bells on.

    His life is on the line with his chain smoking, that’s the grand sum of things.

    As for Danielle George nee Deller. Just Mmm not worth the time of day, you may fancy her…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Excellent letter, EC. Thank you so much for putting this together.

    The sections about the harassment against the families and the inadequacy of Facebook’s reporting tools are particularly well written, in my humble opinion.

    Just a few suggestions for minor tweakages:

    – Could ‘police officers’ perhaps be added to “families, teachers, clergy, and businesses” as a further example of a group of people who’ve faced “disastrous consequences” as a result of the hoax? (I’m thinking in particular of the nastiness that continues to be meted out to DCM.)

    – And on the topic of lists such as the one above, may I suggest removing the commas from directly before the ‘and’ at the end of each list? I know there’s a big debate about this ‘rule’ but I think it flows better without them. Just a thought.

    – Where you mention Justice Pauffley’s report to support your assertion that the Hampstead thing was a hoax, would it be worth also mentioning/linking a few press articles from around the same time?

    https://hoaxteadresearch.wordpress.com/evidence/press-articles

    This one, for example, could act as a summary of JP’s report, which may provide a convenient overview for the hitherto uninitiated recipients:

    http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/crime-court/internet-campaign-satanic-cult-hampstead-school-fantasy-judge-1-4000891

    – Similarly, these may help to support the section where you cite examples of the harassment endured by Hampstead residents and RD:

    http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/crime-court/hampstead-satanic-child-abuse-fantasy-ruined-lives-of-innocent-families-1-4009542

    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/437580/False-accusation-satanic-rape-cult-death-threats-Ella-Draper

    – In your examples of hoaxers who’ve had legal sanctions imposed on them, would it be worth adding that one American was deported for her actions outside the church?

    Thanks again, EC. I’ll be recommending you for a pay rise for this. (GCHQ’s budget is stretched at the moment but I’ll do my best.)

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Didn’t Tracey and Linda contact potential employers of Mr Dearman too? I’m sure they mentioned that in their recent video.

    Great letter, EC! I’m impressed, along with the further suggestions here too.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Just noticed that, also her post about the in-laws using Mummy’s money to take a trip to America & being involved in chop shop cars. Is that all it takes to stop her, a solicitors letter? 😂😂😂

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Forgive me if I missed it, but could you also include some points on how fake news is linked?

    For example the Hampstead case is used to support other fake news conspiracies, and often people will use fake news to gain support, appeal for donations and even make money via advertising and video views.

    On that last point it might be worth mentioning that the platforms themselves will also be making money from this as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Oh look just fuck right off.
    Get a job, get a hobby, get out in the fresh air and get your head out of Spivey’s arse.
    And if you are so sure of your case give your real name and contact details you anonymous gutless wonder. (nice Aussie term I’ve picked up !)

    Liked by 3 people

  19. By Jove you’ve got it !
    Very succinct- to the point- factual and easy to read and digested.
    I’m not sure much else is needed but I would have a separate folder of ‘evidence’.
    Thinking in my PR mode- the evidence from the internet that shows how these crazies have spread such vicious rumours against innocent people is actually beyond sensational and most it’s almost difficult not to read and watch their insane ramblings without feeling you are being hypnotized by a many headed snake.

    Somewhere there is an MP, MEP who is itching for a cause and this is it.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. The great Young Hack of The Year is promoting Aussie conspiracy goon “ex-copper” Michael Smith over some Clinton claptrap.
    Smith is an ex-copper because he was booted out of the Victorian Police after falsifying evidence and theft and consequently lost his police pension.
    God that woman is thick.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Excellent, Sheva – thank you! I hope your advice is taken to heart, with respect to “Fresh Start”.
    I might have some suggestions to contribute as well, but I’d best stew for awhile over what you’ve said and what I found on their website. I won’t forget, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Highly respected psychic ? Since when did Derek Arcorah type idiots ever get any respect, except from jelly-brained losers ?

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Off topic, but I want to make y’all aware of this now lest I forget to do so later.
    http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/17/politics/jeff-flake-trump-press-speech-analysis/index.html

    I think this assessment & analysis of Trump’s relationship with truth & reality – both by Senator Flake and by the CNN writer – parallel some core problems that we are confronted by in this case and others are struggling to deal with in many other areas. Especially this:
    “The idea — forwarded by Trump — that objective truth simply doesn’t exist and everything is a matter of opinion and perspective is hugely corrosive for democracy [and public discourse, our Justice systems, public safety, prevention & treatment of mental illness, child welfare, education and no doubt much more that hasn’t occurred to moi yet]”.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. A56, are you that same nutcake who used to troll us all on YouTube, claiming:

    1. that Danielle had discovered a cure for Down’s syndrome

    and

    2. that Spivey had proved that there was no such thing as Down’s syndrome?

    Never quite got the contradiction there, did you?

    Liked by 3 people

  25. EC, you should be proud of yourself for this letter, (and the rest).

    It might be an idea to point out that Youtube uses technology to immediately recognise copyright infringements in uploaded videos, it automatically removes the material and sends out warnings to uploaders
    They punish those who transgress the rules when they feel like it, when it affect their own pockets. It just so happens that they don’t have anything to gain by removing offending material in this case. The only thing that will make them do that is financial loss, so suing them is the only answer.

    Please continue to store evidence and make it available for those that might want to take the giants on, Spiny, Satanicviews. I hope RD does sue them.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. You hope he sues Spiny and James? LOL 😀

    Re. the copyright thing, I’m not defending YouTube but that’s a whole different kettle of ballgames. It’s controlled by an algorithm and based on whatever agreement YT have with a particular publisher. In some cases it will allow the content unhindered, in some it will allow it but show ads on the video, in some it will block it in certain countries (e.g. Germany in the case of UMG) and in some the video will come down. But in any case, the action is applied automatically when the algorithm recognises the content, which it does the second the video is uploaded. It would be much harder for an algorithm to assess a video for inappropriate content (though our resident IT guru Steved may be able to put me right on that).

    If, however, it doesn’t recognise copyrighted content – say, because the content belongs to an amateur YouTuber – the owner can lodge a complaint and yes, YT are way more efficient at acting upon that than they are on inappropriate content.

    Like

  27. I’m not sure exactly how the Utube algorithms work, they are holding that info pretty close obviously
    I have noticed that some utubes stay up for a lot longer than others, where things like speed is altered on songs slightly and the screen is cropped or letterboxed, so I suspect that it uses samples and compares them against known examples (purely in a data sense, not actual visual comparisons) looking for continuous groups of data that match against the comparison data; again this is just a supposition based on some things I have noticed

    Liked by 1 person

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