Anatomy of a fake news story: the tale of the ‘idiot’ Brexit voters

Anatomy of a fake news story: the tale of the 'idiot' Brexit voters
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It was a tale too good not to share: one man's encounter with a Brexit-voting couple who had just realised their mistake in wanting Britain to leave the EU. 'Just had conversation with a British couple who have a holiday home near us,' wrote RS Archer on Twitter. 'They voted for Brexit and have made no arrangements whatsoever for what happens on Jan 1. They have now discovered the reality of their situation. The blame apparently is with "Brussels".'

Archer went on to reveal how the couple were in tears after realising they might have to sell up their holiday home if Brexit meant they lost their right to reside in the EU. He then claimed their 'idiotic' son stepped in to try and remedy the situation, subsequently sharing the man's Facebook update with his Twitter followers: 'Off to France tomorrow to sort out stuff for my parents house. Not going to let some Frogs push my family around, Brexit is about not letting them push us around anymore. Might have to go to Brussels as well if they no listen. Wish me luck.' 

His thread went on and on, with ever-more excruciating details of the family's apparent shortsightedness in voting for Brexit:

What was the lesson from this parable? Simple: Brexit voters are stupid. And if they didn't realise their mistake back in 2016, then plenty are finally now coming to regret voting the way they did.

Plenty of people were taken in. Mark English, the former head of media for the EU Commission in London, wrote: 

And it wasn't long before the FBPE (Follow back, pro-Europe) brigade were sharing the story. 140,000 people 'liked' Archer's Twitter thread; 53,000 people shared it with their own followers. But then details started to emerge which raised a question: if the story was too good not to share, maybe it was too good to be true?

On his profile, Archer describes himself as 'Author of the 'David Saunders' book series'. But a quick search of Amazon reveals there is no such thing as the 'David Saunders' book series'. 

Then something unusual was spotted about Archer's profile picture: it matched a generic picture available online of 'Man wearing black zip-up jacket near beach smiling at the photo'. 

Acrher's Twitter profile picture

And how about the header image from his Twitter page? Again, it was another picture available online which didn't appear to have been taken by the person behind the Twitter account. This time it was spotted on a motorhome news website.

Others then pointed out that Archer's profile had been set up only three months ago, and that he had never shared any pictures which weren't already available elsewhere online. 

What's more, Archer's claim that the couple's son had been due to travel on a cancelled Eurostar train also didn't stack up: the trains appeared to be running as normal on the day in question.

So what is really going on? It seems almost certain that this Twitter tale of the thick Brexit voters is fake news. But for those convinced that Brexit voters are all stupid, why let that get in the way of sharing it?