Last Tuesday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minster took to Twitter to call on the international community not to turn a blind eye to ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Unfortunately the four photographs he used to show that the alleged massacre had taken place had all been repurposed from elsewhere. One was an image taken by a Reuters photographer in Indonesia in 2003. The most obvious was a famous photograph of two children crying over their dead mother, taken in Rwanda in 1994. The last photo appeared to have been taken from an appeal for flood victims in Nepal.
Of course, people innocently and erroneously share photos repurposed from other conflicts all the time — indeed the Turkish government has itself fallen victim of this in the past — but this faux pas was the work of a senior member of a government with incredible influence and reach.
By the time he had acknowledged his error, his Tweet had already been retweeted, liked and shared further afield thousands of times, joining that mass of other photos distributed on wider social media, that were being passed off as new images from the conflict. If those in positions of power, with their privileged access to intelligence and diplomatic channels cannot separate truth from falsehood, what hope for the rest of us?