Hacked Off founders Hugh Grant and Brian Cathcart were among thousands retweeting posts accusing the Daily Express of faking a front-page picture showing crowds on Brighton seafront in breach of Covid-19 lockdown rules.
The agency behind the photo, South West News, has since gone public with irrefutable evidence that the photo – which featured on Saturday’s Daily Express front page – was legitimate.
The false claims began with a Twitter message from a Brighton resident called David McDonagh, who wrote yesterday: “@daily_Express just wondering why you’re using a photo of Brighton seafront from last year? Those cranes are no longer there, couldn’t be that you’re working with the govt to put the blame on the public not them for this could it?”
The message (now deleted) was retweeted 576 times and had 1,345 likes on Twitter.
Another Brighton resident, Rob Shepherd, then wrote a Twitter message which was retweeted 2,800 times saying: “This is a photo of Brighton and Hove seafront. I walk or run on this patch every day; I take my daughter for her exercise here every day. I have NEVER seen it looking like this during lockdown. This must be a photo from before lockdown. If so, it’s disgracefully dishonest.”
This prompted Jon Mills, the picture editor of South West News, to respond with a message showing the embedded metadata from the image proving it was taken when it was taken.
He said: “Here is the original photo with it’s embedded metadata. Before we put it on our newswire we verified the camera date, interviewed the photographer and cross checked with other pictures taken around the same time. While we don’t get everything right we’re not dishonest.”
This correction (the truth) was retweeted three times, versus more than 3,000 retweets for the untrue allegations that the picture was faked (ie. taken pre-lockdown).
Rob Shepherd then responded with a partial correction saying: “I’m going to do the right thing here, with apologies to anyone concerned. There are cranes. I stood where the other photographer (Ben, I believe) stood and the cranes are there. I stand by my original tweet: I’m writing this from the location and I can see no breaching of lockdown.”
Today Twitter users continued to claim that the picture was faked.
Deanna Kingsbury tweeted: “I’ve lived in Brighton and Hove for 6-7 years and have only ever seen the seafront this busy during the height of summer and know for a fact that the sun is never that high in the sky during April I‘m calling bullshit on the Daily Express, aka once again more Tory Propaganda (face with rolling eyes emoji).”