For the second time, Veerender Jubbal is being blamed for a horrific attack that he did not commit — one he was not even near.
Jubbal is a Sikh Canadian journalist who was outspoken during Gamergate last year. In that time, people heavily harassed those who called out sexism and gender inequality in gaming.
Jubbal was and continues to be a victim of that.
On Thursday night, a man drove a truck through a crowd of Bastille Day fireworks spectators in Nice, France. As of Friday morning, 84 people were killed.
Jubbal's friends quickly rose to his support, calling out the accusations made against him. The image the trolls share of Jubbal is heavily Photoshopped. It was originally a selfie taken with an iPad. Someone changed the iPad to a Quran and added a suicide vest.
The same Photoshopped image was shared in the aftermath of the Paris terror attack, accusing Jubbal of being an attacker. Jubbal defended himself on Twitter at the time. He has since stopped using his Twitter account because of abuse he faced on the social media platform.
Jubbal's friend Simran Singh told BuzzFeed,
Veeren has been an incredible advocate for equal rights across the online community, and unfortunately, people who disagree with his positions have attacked him in repulsive and inhumane ways. Last year, someone photoshopped an image of him and used it to spread rumors that he was involved in the Paris attacks. Now, someone else is circulating his photo and claiming he had something to do with the Nice attacks. For those who think it's just a meaningless joke, last year when this happened, several news outlets in Europe published his photo and named him as a suspect. These false accusations put my friend's life at risk, and his life has never been the same.
Social media can be cool sometimes, but we all know it can be used maliciously, like the people targeting Jubbal do.
During and following breaking news events, social media is often untrustworthy as accounts follow rumors and false reports.
Trolls also use this confusion to their own benefit. For instance, one man keeps being identified on Twitter as the victim of various attacks around the world. In reality, he apparently scammed people out of money, and they are getting revenge by putting his photo out during attacks.
Suspects in attacks are also frequently misidentified, especially in the early stages of an incident. Just last week, for instance, the Dallas police tweeted a photo of a man they identified as a suspect, who was, in fact, innocent.
People trying to be helpful on the internet often instead hurt innocent people and make racially motivated suggestions. After the Boston bombing, for example, internet "sleuths" — mainly Reddit users — blamed a handful of innocent people, including a young man, Sunil Tripathi, who had been missing. Tripathi was later found dead.
Tripathi's mother called the accusations made against her son, and the subsequent media frenzy they caused, "absolutely horrible."
This is also far from the first time religious ignorance and intolerance led to more attacks and hate. Sikh men, who wear turbans, are frequently targeted in hate crimes where the attacker thinks the men are Muslim.
In 2012, a man shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.