A Hackney councillor has told for the first time how he feared for his family’s safety when an image of his house marked out as a rifle target was posted by an online stalker
Luke Akehurst (Chatham, Labour) said the hate website set up to criticise him got out of control and he found it “very creepy”.
The blog, written by an impostor pretending to be the councillor, included modified images and mocking accounts of the 37-year-old’s efforts in the council.
Cllr Akehurst said: “I wasn’t angry about it, I just found it strange and obsessive that someone put that much effort into it. I had to accept it from a personal point of view because I have chosen to have my own blog, so it’s legitimate.”
However, after a while the father-of-one from Stoke Newington found himself worrying about his safety.
He said: “One post even included a Google Earth image which marked my house as a rifle site, saying ‘target required’. I found that very weird – it was like having an online stalker.”
The Labour activist said the site at first caused a stir among his fellow council members.
He said: “A lot of people were following it and talking about it, and to be honest it was 90 per cent funny. It was written in an entertaining style, although I did find it unfair when my family or other councillors, who had deliberately not put themselves into the spotlight, were mentioned.”
Cllr Akehurst considered taking legal action against the fraudster, but decided it would be too difficult.
“I thought about it, as there was defamatory stuff on there about me, but it’s a free society and there is always going to be satire in politics,” he said.
Matthew Harris, former head of intellectual property and IT law at Norton Rose, said false attribution of authorship is major grounds for suing.
He said: “If you do something which effectively represents that this is the work of party A when it’s not their work, if you set up a spoof blog under their name, then you can be sued under section 84 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.”
Another impostor website, The Happy Blog of Harriet Harman, has also been set up by someone pretending to be the deputy Labour leader. Last year, a fake resignation letter appeared on Ms Harman’s official website which read “To friends, foes and fans, below is a copy of the resignation letter that landed on Gordon’s desk this morning.” Beneath it was a link to the spoof blog.
Recently, a number of fake profile of politicians have appeared on social networking site Twitter, including one for Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond.
A spokeswoman for Safeworkers UK, an advice bureau about workplace safety, said: “Whether it’s e-bullying or face-to-face, there are laws surrounding both harassment and bullying in the UK and you can take legal action if you feel you have become the victim of an internet bully.
“Firstly, however, you should try to resolve the problem with the person directly if you know the identity of them.”
The site has not been updated for some time. Cllr Akehurst thinks this is because he came close to working out the secret blogger’s identity.
He said: “We saw someone taking photographs of our house, and the next day the photos appeared on the site. We were in a position to work out exactly who it was, and I guess they were worried they would get sued.”
Cllr Akehurst continues to write his own blog, and hopes the impostor will not begin posting to the fake site again.