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For critics spreading fake tweet about Rashida Tlaib, truth is no concern

Twitter users sharing fabricated quote about congresswoman say it doesn't matter that it's fake
Tlaib urged critics to try to disagree with her 'with facts' (MEE/File photo)
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Washington

Martha Wolkonsky, a realtor from Tennessee, is not convinced that a fabricated tweet attributed to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is in fact fake, despite conclusive evidence discrediting it.

A disinformation campaign targeting the congresswoman since she was a candidate appears to be fuelled by the nature of the polarised political landscape in America. Many social media users seek news that reinforce their own biases; truth is of secondary concern. 

A screenshot from a long discredited Twitter account impersonating the congresswoman has been making the rounds again and gaining thousands of shares on social media. 

"Americans have spent decade raping and pillaging my people," the now-suspended fake account tweeted last year. "What goes around comes around." 

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A year later, a grainy screenshot of the fabricated post is spreading quickly on social media - in the context of the Iran crisis.

In fact, Wolkonsky's tweet featuring the comment falsely attributed to Tlaib has more than 10,000 retweets

Multiple fact-checking websites have pointed to the fact that the fake twitter handle has replaced the lowercase "L" in Tlaib's name with an uppercase "I". Moreover, the post did not have the blue verification check mark that all Congress members have next to their names on Twitter.

Still, Wolkonsky cannot make up her mind. 

"It is what it is, I cannot prove either way if it's fake or not fake," Wolkonsky told Middle East Eye.

When confronted with the evidence, she dismissed fact-checking website like Snopes as having a liberal bias.

Wolkonsky added that three people had privately messaged her to stress that the post is real and dates back to before the time the congresswoman was verified, which she said explains the absence of the blue checkmark.

Further highlighting the nature of selective information that precipitates to American voters enforcing their own biases, Wolkonsky questioned why Tlaib had not denied the viral post attributed to her.

In fact the congresswoman had slammed the disinformaiton campaign with uncompromising words, hours before MEE spoke to Wolkonsky.

"Quick public servant announcement: If there isn't a checkmark next to my name on the tweet then it's fake!" Tlaib wrote on Twitter.

Wolkonsky, who is a supporter of President Donald Trump, criticised the congresswoman for opposing military confrontation with Iran, saying that she does not believe that Tlaib is an American.

A US air strike killed Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani on Friday, intensifying tensions between Tehran and Washington. Iranian and American officials have been exchanging threats after the assassination. 

Over the weekend, Tlaib attended an anti-war march in her district in Detroit, delivering an impassioned speech against getting into a military conflict with Iran. 

"We have an entire generation of people and children who have only known a United States at war," Tlaib said on Saturday. 

"We cannot stay silent as this lawless President recklessly engages in actions that move us closer to yet another unnecessary war that will undoubtedly result in more bloodshed."

The fake tweet resurfaced shortly after the protest.

Wolkonsky said she will keep her post up even if it is misleading.

"I'm not going to delete it. If it's fake, it's fake," she said. "There's nothing really I can do about it at this point."

Similarly, right-wing radio commentator Monica Matthews said the authenticity of the tweet is irrelevant, accusing Tlaib of espousing an ideology "rooted in terrorism".

"Psst.. we know it’s a 'fake'. Her ideology is still rooted in terrorism. Not everything on Twitter is a damn news story. God almighty," she wrote on Sunday.

Matthews went on to describe efforts to censor the misinformation as "communism".

With the rise of social media as a source of news, Americans have been subjected to manipulation campaigns. Dozens of entirely fabricated news article reached millions of people ahead of the 2016 elections. 

Twitter is still grappling with how to handle fake news. Last year, the social media platform solicited feedback from users on how to handle disinformation. 

"Our synthetic and manipulated media policy is still in progress so we cannot comment on what action we'd take ahead of its implementation," a Twitter spokesperson told MEE on Monday.