A Twitter account which tweeted a picture of a Muslim woman wrongly accused of ignoring the Westminster terror attack has been revealed as one of the thousands of fake accounts set up by a Russian “troll factory”.
The account, @Southlonestar, tweeted a picture of a woman in a hijab walking past a victim laying on the ground while on her phone.
It said: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam.”
The sentiment was picked up by far-right activists in the UK and the US and the woman was attacked for her “indifference” to the scene.
In March 52-year-old Muslim convert Khalid Masood, who had been radicalised by Isis propaganda, drove a van in pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before attempting to storm the Houses of Parliament.
He killed five people, including a police officer on duty who tried to stop him, before being shot dead by armed officers.
The woman was photographed on the bridge in the moments after the attack but the man who took the picture, Jamie Lorriman told The Independent the woman was clearly “traumatised” and “visibly distressed”.
He said she was just one of hundreds fleeing the bridge, trying to avoid looking at the “horror surrounding them.”
“Her behaviour was completely in line with everyone else on the bridge, but you’re not assuming others are callously ignoring the scenario,” he said.
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“So many other people were walking all over the place – everybody that was on the ground had someone with them, if everybody had stopped and tried to help you would never have been able to help anyone.”
He said he hated that the photo had been taken out of context and used to push an “agenda” and said “people who hate will use anything as the weapon of their opinion”.
The account is one of 2,700 Twitter users which have been handed over to the US House Intelligence Committee as a fake one created in Russia to influence UK and US politics.
The committee is currently investigating claims that the Kremlin systematically intervened in the election and allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with them.
The account, which had over 16,000 followers and read “Proud TEXAN and AMERICAN patriot” is known to have spread messages on the day of the US presidential election a few months earlier designed to support Donald Trump.
It was also one of a number of accounts which tweeted pro-Brexit messages on the day of the EU referendum in June last year.
The accounts are believed to have been written by staff at the Internet Research Centre in St Petersburg.
The trolls are believed to work around from 8am-8pm Moscow time (5am- 5pm UK time) to churn out hundreds of thousands of tweets designed to spread political disharmony in western countries such as the US and the UK and encourage the rise of populist politicians or causes.
Many tweets mocked the warnings of the Remain campaign, which said the country faced years of economic uncertainty and a potential recession if it voted to leave, with memes such as one which said: “If you Brexit your car won’t start in the morning”.
The scale and speed at which the tweets were produced suggested they were not spontaneous or genuine – one account, called @PeterMagLob who was pretending to be German, tweeted 20 times an hour during polling day.