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Journalist hit by identity theft as fake profiles launched to ‘smear’ him

Fake social media accounts purporting to be a regional journalist have been launched in an apparent bid to “smear” the reporter.

Doncaster Free Press journalist Darren Burke has been hit by both the launch of a fake Facebook account using his name, as well as a profile on X which was set up on Thursday before being suspended on Friday evening.

Darren, pictured, goes by the handle @DarrenBurkeSYN on X, while the identity thief used the name @DarrenBurkeDFP.

The fake account described itself as a “parody” in its biography, but also made a number of seemingly legitimate requests related to newsgathering on the social network prior to being suspended by moderators.

Daren Burke GNS

These included requests for quotes from City of Doncaster Council and marketing organisation Business Doncaster.

According to the account’s biography, the profile claimed to be a “parody account highlighting the political bias of the Doncaster Free Press reporter Darren Burke”.

In one post addressed directly to the real Darren, its anonymous author wrote: “I have no political bias Dazza, just here to highlight the differences in sides.”

In another, it claimed the real Darren had posted eight or nine messages “highlighting [Tory Don Valley MP] Nick Fletcher and his inept actions as a Doncaster MP, but I have so far failed to make one post about [Labour’s MP for Doncaster North] Ed Miliband”.

Speaking to HTFP, Darren said: “This is just the latest in a long line of attempts to smear my name. Following on from a fake Facebook account, which was used to abuse readers, there is now someone masquerading as me on X, simply with the intention of mischief making by contacting local organisations and making it look like requests from me.

“Add on to death threats against me in recent years, with the police involved on a number of occasions, it makes for a pretty unpleasant time knowing that there are people out there determined to put obstacles in the way of journalism in Doncaster.

“However, it only makes me more determined to keep digging to see why these people wish to discredit me and the Doncaster Free Press in a bid to deflect any kind of scrutiny.

“They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I would like to make it clear that the DarrenBurkeDFP account is nothing to do with me and would urge people to use caution over any messages issued from that account.”

In a statement issued to Darren, X said: “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We have now suspended the account based on your report.

“Parody, newsfeed, commentary and fan accounts are permitted on Twitter as long as they comply with our policy.

“If the user appeals their suspension, we will provide them with instructions on how to comply with our policy and reactivate their account. They will have 48 hours to make the necessary changes on their account.

“Once the account has been reactivated for three or more business days, you can reply to this email to file a follow-up report.

“Twitter will not proactively monitor the account, but will respond to all valid follow-up reports.”