Richard Ferrer writes, at the Independent:
It started on Saturday night when sinister tweets began appearing on my timeline, claiming I’d been “tripped up”, had “got my comeuppance” and been a “naughty boy”.
Next came a barrage of links to a message board on Muslim website Ummah.com. The top post was headed: “i am pledging allegiance to the caliphate”.
It read: “salam my sisters and brothers we should get out of this evil country and pledge our allegiance to the Muslim sharia law and get out of evil west. who wants to join me so we can wage war and jihad against the corrupt west.”
A computer boffin identified the message had originated from the IP address address Richard.Ferrer@dailymail.co.uk.
The post was made by a new forum member, using the name “abuaisha10″; shortly thereafter, a second poster asked why abuaisha10’s registration IP resolved to “Evening Standard Newspaper”. A third poster then added: “It says dailymail for me Hostname: mos.integration.dailymail.co.uk”, and linked the alleged IP – 188.8.131.52 – to “richard.ferrer.dailymail.co.uk” (Ferrer has mistakenly turned this sub-domain into an email address).
For some reason, there is an eveningstandard.uk domain that was registered to Northcliffe House (the Mail‘s address) last month, which explains the confusion over whether the IP is associated with the Evening Standard or the Mail (H/T Unity); however, the bigger false lead was to link the IP to Ferrer. As Unity points out, the IP is actually resolves to a gateway server for sub-domains attached to many names associated with the Mail – and Ferrer left the paper six years ago.
So was it someone else at the Mail? Apparently not; according to Ferrer:
Next day, on Monday morning, the Daily Mail confirmed the message had not been sent from its offices and I was no longer on their IT database. In fact, after six years they didn’t have a clue who I was.
This suggests the IP was faked in some way. Ferrer adds:
My best guess is the author was keen to kill two birds with one stone by publicly defaming a Jewish journalist and the Daily Mail in one fell swoop. It was almost Mission Accomplished.
Perhaps, although the naming of Ferrer may have been a genuine error rather than an act of malice – repeated lookups of the IP data yield different a name each time, apparently randomly (H/T Tim Ireland). There may also be other motives: for instance, it’s possible that someone wanted to whip up a bogus anti-Daily Mail furore that they knew would eventually fall apart and embarrass those who had invested in it.
Certainly, impersonating a Muslim extremist on a forum would be a breathtakingly stupid thing for any journalist to do in the wake of 2009’s “Terror Target Sugar” fiasco, which ended with a substantial payout to Sugar from the Sun (Sugar also threatened to sue Rebeka Brooks personally) and an arrest.
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