Lies on social media can be half way around the globe before the truth has a chance to surface. One such lie partly caused former Welsh Tory MP for Gower, Byron Davies, to lose his seat in the 2017 General Election.
An allegation that Mr Davies was being investigated for electoral fraud spread like wildfire on social media. Involved in the online smear campaign was Dan Evans, a café owner in Mumbles, South Wales who is a Labour voter.
The campaign to oust Mr Davies began around 6 weeks prior to the election utilising platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Evans has now been forced to make a public apology on Twitter that can be seen above. He admits to lying and apologises for what he did. His reason was merely that he didn’t want Mr Davies to win!
However his actions contributed to Tonia Antoniazzi, Labour’s candidate, winning the contested seat.
Hard left Corbynistas
Mr Davies attributed his defeat to lies told about him online by what he referred to as “hard left supporters of Jeremy Corbyn”. Other allegations made via the online campaign to defame him included that he had made fraudulent claims for expenses.
Twitter and Facebook refused to help
Evans may have felt he was safe as a keyboard warrior hiding behind his social media account but he was wrong. Mr Davies, an ex-Metropolitan police officer, used his own resources to find him, after the social media giants wouldn’t launch an investigation. It took ten months for Mr Davies to get the lies on social media removed.
In addition to the apology Evans, had no choice but to agree to pay the former MP’s legal fees and a 5 figure undisclosed sum in damages. The money will be paid to a charity of Mr. Davies’s choice.
What we can learn about posting lies on social media
The moral of this sad tale is quite apparently not to post lies on social media but there is much more to this.
Interfering with the electoral process erodes democracy and this can never be a good thing. Also the defamation campaign Evans created has increased calls for social media to be regulated, monitored and censored. This jeopardises everyone’s freedom of speech and expression.
One day perhaps we will be able to develop some lie detection technology that identifies lies on social media. Until that time, we suggest that those considering emulating Evans should take the advice in his apologetic tweet – don’t do it!