July 15, 2016 at 10:36 AM
It was happening again: A Photoshopped selfie of Veerender Jubbal circulated on Twitter as that of a person "reportedly involved" in the deadly attack in Nice, France. Just months ago, Jubbal was defending himself against a viral campaign to frame him as one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks.
The now-suspended Twitter user
@OfficialSamHyde tweeted a doctored selfie of Jubbal, a Sikh freelance writer, shortly after the attacks in Nice, France, on Thursday that left at least 84 people dead. The tweet claimed that Jubbal was a "French Muslim" who was "reportedly involved in #Nice terror attacks, posted pictures before committing them."
Jubbal's friends feared the worst: The last time a troll tried to connect the writer to a major attack, some media outlets picked up on the hoax as fact. The fallout from the hoax took a huge toll on him. "The last time around it was so disheartening that his life hasn't been the same since," said Jubbal's friend Simran Jeet Singh, a senior religion fellow at the Sikh Coalition, in an interview on Friday morning.
In November, Jubbal was forced to deny that he was connected to the terror attacks in Paris, after someone circulated a Photoshopped version of one of his recent selfies. The doctored selfie was passed off as that of an "Islamic State attacker" involved in the deadly bombings. In the circulated image, it appeared as if the writer were holding a Koran and wearing a suicide vest. But in the original picture, Jubbal held an iPad and wore a short-sleeved, plaid shirt.
"Let us start with basics. Never been to Paris. Am a Sikh dude with a turban. Lives in Canada," Jubbal tweeted in November, shortly after the Paris attacks. In the following weeks Jubbal tweeted about continued harassment and death threats stemming from the incident. He eventually said he was "going to be off Twitter for quite awhile," until things "calm down."
Singh said it was clear that Jubbal's photo was "intentionally circulated to create misinformation" in the wake of the attacks in Nice, as it was after Paris.
"There's some malice going on," Singh said, noting that the person who tweeted the image after the attack in Nice appeared to be enjoying it. "It seemed to me like it was a game to him," he added.
Jubbal believed that the people behind the Paris campaign were furious at him because of his activism against Gamergate. Among other things he did, Jubbal started the
#StopGamerGate2014 hashtag. "Gamers are absolute garbage like I have been saying for a full year," he tweeted in November. "People will not stop harassing, and bothering me. I am cute as gosh."
This time around, Singh and other friends worked quickly to try and ensure that the latest campaign against Jubbal wouldn't spin out of control. "The response was swift and clear enough that Twitter actually suspended his account," Singh noted. The account in question was suspended a few hours after a mutual friend brought the offending tweet to Singh's attention. So far, it appears that no news outlets have picked up on Jubbal's photo as that of a legitimate suspect.
"There's a danger here in terms of the individual. It puts his life at risk," Singh said. But he was also worried that the trolling targeting Jubbal "perpetuates negative stereotypes" targeting "people who look a certain way."
He added: "It's a really scary situation for a lot of people."