SINGAPORE - A spoof news report claiming that the man behind online satirical group SMRT Ltd (Feedback) has been arrested went viral on social media earlier this week.
The fake online article, headlined "Man behind satire page, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) arrested; links to WikiLeaks confirmed", featured a photograph of Mr Geoffrey See, the managing director of a non-profit organisation. Under the photo is a caption that says that "the man behind SMRT Ltd (Feedback), a satirical and online vigilante Facebook group, was arrested in a police raid at Arab Street". The online article mimicked the appearance of The Straits Times website. It was taken down on Tuesday afternoon.
SMRT Ltd (Feedback) recently engaged in online vigilantism against Mr Jover Chew, the owner of a Sim Lim Square mobile-phone shop which has been accused of unscrupulous sales tactics. The group published on its Facebook page Mr Chew's personal and business information.
The fake report about Mr See, 29, has caused much embarrassment and distress, he told The Straits Times. He also stressed that he is not part of SMRT Ltd (Feedback) and has no links to WikiLeaks. His company, Choson Exchange, runs economics, business and legal training programmes in North Korea. Mr See has filed a police report, and the police said that they are looking into the matter.
The fake news article was created through ShrtURL, a platform that allows people to create customised versions of existing websites. International media such as Time magazine had described it as "the most dangerous website in America", where fake tech-related news reports about Apple and Amazon had been created using the platform.
Said assistant professor Alwen Fernanto Tiu from the school of computer engineering at Nanyang Technological University: "Not a lot of people check the URLs of websites they visit so they could be tricked into thinking that the website was actually by The Straits Times. A way to spread the links is by piggy-backing on popular topics such as the Sim Lim Square incident."