The Twitter photo actually showed Internet troll Jonathan Riches, a former federal inmate known for posting misleading photos online and for filing more than 4,000 lawsuits.
Twitter labeled “hundreds” of tweets containing the misidentified image as “manipulated media," according to a Twitter spokesperson. The added labels link to a thread of tweets from prominent media outlets that correctly identify the man in the photo as Riches.
The image shows two photos side by side: One is a still of the video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck, and the other is Riches in his hat — fashioned like President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” cap — picking a blackberry out of a fruit bowl.
The fact-checking site Snopes writes that the photo was originally posted by a Facebook user who claims to be Riches’ relative.
Many others soon began correcting the record, as the phrase “Make Whites Great Again” was trending on Twitter. Some argued that the fake could weaken the case against Chauvin.
The physician and scientist Eugene Gu tweeted that the man in the hat “absolutely sucks but is not the police officer, Derek Chauvin, who took a knee on George Floyd’s neck.”
The man in the hat “is not the same person as the officer who killed George Floyd,” tweeted Carmine Sabia, a conservative writer, adding that “you do not need to create lies to get people more infuriated.”
Twitter has not labeled the photographs as misinformation, nor had it provided a comment by the time this article was published.
Riches has a long history of creating misinformation. He went to prison for wire fraud in 2003, and there he began infamously flooding the courts with lawsuits against a wide variety of targets, including Kanye West, Martha Stewart and the Guinness Book of World Records, many of which were dismissed as frivolous. He filed so many that in 2010, prosecutors won a nationwide injunction prohibiting him from submitting such “frivolous, fraudulent, or malicious documents having no basis in law or fact to federal courts.”
Upon his release, he began appearing at newsworthy events and misidentifying himself to journalists. As Luke O’Brien wrote in HuffPost, he has “attended the Bill Cosby trial in September 2016 and offered Cosby Jell-O,” has pretended to be a Black Lives Matter supporter and made waves in 2016 when he “was front-row at a Hillary Clinton town hall in Haverford, Pennsylvania, representing ‘Muslims for Clinton.’ ”
Like many trolls, Riches doesn’t seem to have publicly professed any core beliefs other than to fool people — particularly celebrities and reporters — and later boast about it on social media.