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‘Deepfake’ writer exposed as spreading 'disinformation' about War on Want

17 Jul 2020 News

A fake author was used to spread allegations about a War on Want staff member in online media outlets, Reuters has found.

The journalist, Oliver Taylor, authored articles in a number of news outlets throughout April 2020. 

However, Reuters, an international news agency, reported this week that Oliver Taylor “seems to be an elaborate fiction”. It added that his university says it has no record of him and he has no obvious online footprint.

Experts in deceptive imagery used forensic analysis programs to show that Taylor’s profile photo is a hyper-realistic forgery – a “deepfake”.

War on Want described the allegations in the articles authored by Taylor as “malicious” and “false”.

Charity Commission data for the financial year ending 31 March 2019 put War On Want’s income at £1.6m and spending at £1.7m.

Asad Rehman, executive director at War on Want, said: “We’re pleased that malicious, false allegations about a War on Want staff member and her husband have been exposed for what they are – disinformation aimed at disrupting human rights work.

“The publications in question repeated old allegations made against War on Want, which were completely dismissed by the Charity Commission, the charities regulator in England and Wales, because of their baselessness.”

Rehman added that these allegations “are part of a broader disinformation campaign aimed at attacking and discrediting human rights defenders, internationally-recognised Palestinian human rights organisations, their partner organisations and donors”. 

The charity says false claims were also brought to PayPal, causing it to cancel its provision of services to War on Want, “directly impacting the charity’s operational ability”.

Liz McKean, War on Want’s director of campaigns, policy and international programmes, said that PayPal abruptly stopped processing donations to War on Want without notice on 29 September 2018, after receiving allegations about the charity.

She said that the “sudden loss of PayPal’s services, investigating what happened, and obtaining a new ethical payment provider” disrupted War on Want’s ability to process charitable donations.

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