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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Tommy Robinson NOT Released From Prison After Huge Campaign

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:13:42 Z)

Was Tommy Robinson (whose real name is Christopher Yaxley-Lennon) released from prison after a huge campaign? Or did the U.K. Home Office confuse him with an 85-year-old whose real legal name was Tommy Robinson and was he released instead? No, none of that is true: it was all made up by a satirical website, it is not real and did not happen.

The story originated from an article published by the Southend News Network on June 19, 2018 titled "Tommy Robinson released from prison after huge campaign" (archived here) which opened:

A spokesperson for the Home Office has confirmed that Tommy Robinson has been released from prison after a huge campaign on social media.

He said, 'We have noticed hundreds of thousands of posts with the phrase 'Free Tommy Robinson,' and we so had a look over our records and the only prisoner we had with this legal name was Thomas Robinson, an 85-year-old gentleman from Suffolk who was serving a ten-year sentence for trying to sexually interfere with a chicken in Ipswich.'

Screenshot of http://southendnewsnetwork.net/news/tommy-robinson-released-from-prison-after-huge-campaign/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail and some believed the news was real:

Tommy Robinson released from prison after huge campaign

A spokesperson for the Home Office has confirmed that Tommy Robinson has been released from prison after a huge campaign on social media. He said, 'We have noticed hundreds of thousands of posts with the phrase 'Free Tommy Robinson,' and we so had a look over our records and the only prisoner we had with ...

But the picture of the supposedly released prisoner was just a stock photo that has been in circulation since at least 2016:

11 results - TinEye

Compare your search image to your result image. Quickly click the "Switch" button to switch back and forth between the two images and see the differences.

And The Southend News Network is a satirical site pretending to be a news organisation by the English coast in Southend. They have a disclaimer on their about page that reads (in part):

Southend News Network was originally started in October 2015 with no real aims or objectives in mind other than to add a satirical/spoof-like touch to issues that people are passionate about in Southend On Sea. Above all else, SNN is all about having the occasional 'dig' at the powers that be, as well a slightly bigger and more frequent 'dig' at certain elements of local media!

Several of their stories have been mistaken for real news in the past and the site was recognized by the local authorities as an "official news outlet".

We wrote about southendnewsnetwork.net before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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