A local Facebook page called the ‘Blantyre Telegraph‘ had shared an unsubstantiated rumour that a base was being set up in nearby Strathclyde Park, it wasn’t true.
When I contacted the Blantyre Telegraph for a comment about this claim, they offered a comment but subsequently threatened me with legal action soon after, saying that “I hereby advise I will instruct a lawyer to pursue you personally should you not comply with my requests above not to mention Blantyre Telegraph at all in your article”.
The trouble? It wasn’t true at all. A base was not being set up in the local area and the images used weren’t recent, we had this confirmed by the British Army and the Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey.
This gets strange, you’ll soon see what I mean. When asked for comment we were told:
“Hi – sorry, as a small charity page and not a media company, we only post usually about local stories in Blantyre. We don’t have teams. One person runs the page in spare time after work. We’re not a media outlet and non profit this page is just a small hobby to raise money for local good causes.
However, in interests of reliably informing town residents in this time of crisis, we’ve picked up on major National stories from official news media sites and websites, like for example the story that evening of the army assisting the NHS with some deliveries (as they certainly are doing). We never mentioned a base in Glasgow, although referred to the set up in Strathclyde park following it being mentioned on ITV, SKY and on Forces websites. We can’t control what people comment on or post afterwards. We pride ourselves on accuracy.
Don’t think we’ve ever posted anything inaccurate in 9 years including that particular story, which was indeed being discussed on the late night ITV Peston show even as it was being written. Happy to help in any way we can. We abhor misinformation and fake news, being particularly diligent and careful before each post to ensure accuracy. It may be best to pick this up with news websites, rather than us. Good luck with your article.”
There was no mention on any media channels at the time of a base being set up in Strathclyde Park, but there were rumours on social media which is likely where this stemmed from.
When pressed on this, the response was quite concerning.
“I’m sure Robert Peston advising the Nation that the army was mobilising live on ITV would have alarmed a lot more people that night that a local Blantyre facebook page. I stand by the post given the picture sent in, feedback from NHS staff and that the words that were lifted from SKY and actual forces websites. Accuracy is very important to this site and we will always avoid spculation. Have a good day.”
It’s worth noting however that they subsequently changed the claim made in the original post and removed one of the images.
When I pointed this out, the response was:
“There WAS a tent there regardless of you missing it. Not up for debate any further pal. My working day has started. I hereby do NOT provide you permission to include any of my comments or mention Blantyre Telegraph and expect you to comply with GDPR in that request. Thanks. I trust you will comply and respect my privacy and this charitable business Ive worked so hard to build. To be crystal clear, you DONT have my permission to include my words, statement or reference to Blantyre Telegraph. Thanks.”
I asked about whether or not they had a charity number. By the way, it’s worth noting that registering with the Charity Commission does not make a group into a charity: registering simply turns an unregistered charity into a registered charity but I was curious to see if they were registered. This was the response:
“Sorry, not got time for this, I really dont. If you keep this up, you’ll be banned. You wont be writing about Blantyre Telegraph. Christ, you’re NOT even from this town, i see.”
The final message contained quite an ominous threat.
“We have a charitable magazine out EVERY month. The page ONLY exists for that to get news out to local people and every penny goes towards local good causes. Not one penny is retained. Go pursue news websites about news. Meantime, given your “dog with a bone” attitude, I have your profile bookmarked and will decide if this needs a story written about you. Meantime, i bid you good-day. Good luck with whatever you write. I hereby advise I will instruct a lawyer to pursue you personally should you not comply with my requests above not to mention Blantyre Telegraph at all in your article. (if there even is one intended)”
There is an article intended, you’re reading it now. As of this time I have been blocked from their Facebook page, they have however posted this.
There was also some question as to what the Facebook page actually is.
It has a disclaimer… but don’t be confused to think it’s ran by teams of people, it is one person. It is both a news network and not a media website. What are you then? pic.twitter.com/jBgUYE6dxN
— Jennifer M Jones (@jennifermjones) March 20, 2020
Why have we published this?
Inadvertently or not, we have no idea what the motive might have been, the Blantyre Telegraph appeared to contribute to the spread of misinformation or fake news regarding bases being set up in the local area.
These claims were of course not true.
All we were after was a correction to the original claim, I’m not accusing anyone of doing anything intentionally merely trying to communicate the message that verifying what you share online is always the right thing to do, especially during a pandemic where claims of an Army base being set up near local areas can cause panic.
The message here is that during a pandemic, sharing unconfirmed speculation is dangerous and irresponsible.
**UPDATE – THE ORIGINAL POST HAS BEEN REMOVED BY THE BLANTYRE TELEGRAPH**