@AlabedBana
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Trolls are mocking a seven year old girl tweeting from besieged Aleppo

Since Bana al-Abed shot to fame for tweeting about life under Syria's bombs, fake accounts have sprung up imitating the child. 

It’s been a few days since seven-year-old Bana al-Abed became the world’s unlikeliest social media star. With the help of her mother Fatemah, Bana has been tweeting messages from Aleppo, documenting her life in the besieged city. On 24 September, Bana had 4,000 Twitter followers. Since her story was covered in a handful of Britain’s national newspapers this week, she now has nearly 60,000.

Through her tweets, Bana has described a world where children go to bed praying they will wake up the next morning, where you lose friends not because of a playground fight, but because they have been crushed to death in a barrel bomb attack, and where a perfect day would just be going to school. 

But just because Bana isn’t your usual liquid-lipstick-haul brand of internet famous doesn’t mean she isn’t subjected to the same treatment as more traditional social media stars. Like many prominent people who use the site, Bana has been targeted by fake, mock profiles imitating her account. Because she doesn’t have a blue tick – Twitter’s badge of verification that proves someone is who they say they are – there is potential that these fake accounts will be mistaken for her.

Two of these accounts seem to have that aim in mind. One – that Bana herself has tweeted about – has a single tweet, “Dear world help us”, that has been shared 60 times. Others, however, are far more malicious, and seem to be acting on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s belief – that he voiced to Danish TV2 correspondent Rasmus Tantholdt – that Bana is a “terrorist”.

@alabed_banana has just 26 followers but has tweeted 493 times since the beginning of October. The account’s creator doesn’t seem to want to pass as Bana (the pig and poo emojis in the account name do a good job of ruling out its authenticity) but is instead targeting Bana’s supporters by claiming that her account is fake.

“Anne Frank wrote her diary with a ballpoint pen, yrs b4 its invention. I tweet from Aleppo, in perfect English, with electric power being down all day,” reads the bio of the account.

The user has also taken umbrage with one of Bana’s tweets that reads: “Dear world, it's better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & assad commit #HolocaustAleppo”. The fake account has repeatedly criticised the tweet, asking: “Which ‘girl’" wants WW3 upon mankind? this is a troll, a disgusting neocon troll.” The account, in essence, is a troll calling out a real account for being a troll.

The real Bana has contacted Twitter asking to be verified, and if this happens it is unlikely these fake accounts will gain any traction. Users can also report them as spam by clicking the cog symbol on the top right hand corner of their timelines. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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