A BBC report has found that conspiracy theorists who claim that the terrorist attacks in the UK were staged are tracking survivors in their homes and workplaces to determine if they are lying about their injuries. One of the conspiracy theorists identified, Richard D. Hall, has been filming survivors physically to determine if their injuries are genuine. He has even spied on the daughter of one of the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena explosion, Eve, who was left profoundly disabled and in a wheelchair, to see if she can in fact walk.
These conspiracy theorists have generated a great deal of online abuse toward survivors, and some report that the harassment is now spilling over into their offline lives. A survey by King’s College London shows that nearly one in five people in the UK believe that survivors of terrorist attacks are not telling the truth about what happened to them, and 14% believe that the 2017 Manchester Arena attack involved “crisis actors.” Victims of online abuse report that these conspiracy theories appear to have increased since the start of the pandemic.
The libel complaint filed by Martin Hibbert, who was paralyzed from the waist down in the Manchester Arena explosion, highlights the importance of balancing freedom of speech with the harm caused by conspiracy theories that are not supported by actual facts.
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