The owner of an Indian restaurant in New Cross accused of selling human meat to customers in a fake news scam has spoken out about her ordeal and abuse.
Shinra Begum, owner of Karri Twist on New Cross Road, told EastLondonlines about the impact this malicious story has had on her small business.
She said: “I can’t describe how devastating it’s been. People have been ringing up placing fake orders, fake bookings, fake deliveries, everything.
“For the first couple of days I was pretty emotional. I was so frustrated and angry, I couldn’t believe and I still can’t that someone could do this. It’s just been horrific.”
The fictional story was written anonymously and published on social media by channel23news.com; a site solely dedicated to producing fake news.
Begum told of how she found out about the story. “The phones were ringing off the hook, it was all vague mumbles [like], ‘ you are disgusting.’ A couple of calls in, we got one person, clearly asking ‘ why are you selling human meat?’ and we were all stunned.”
She then searched Google but was unable to find anything. A couple of hours later a friend in Sunderland, nearly 300 miles away, sent through a screenshot of the story that had been circulating on social media.
“It looks like an article, there are obvious errors, restaurant is spelt wrong, but at a quick scroll it looks legitimate,” Begum said.
She spoke of the abuse she has encountered. “One man came in demanding to see nine dead bodies. For about half an hour he stood there angrily and I had to explain to him that it was a fake news story, and there were no dead bodies for him to see.”
Begum told of another incident last Friday, when a man came in and advised her that she was lucky the door was open, because if not he would’ve ‘ bricked’ the restaurant. Luckily she had her laptop and pleaded for the man to give her a few minutes to show him the fake site.
“Our reputation that we have carefully built up over the last two years has been ruined in just under a week. It’ s unbelievable,” Begum added.
Other local businesses also fell for the story.
“Initially I thought it was true, until I read through it properly and realised it was completely fake,” John Kelly, manager of the Marquis of Granby, a pub just down the road from Karri Twist, said to ELL.
“It’s shocking, it’s a local Indian that’s been there for years. They could with this site target whoever, a pub, a shop, this could happen to anyone.
“It’s worrying that people would go to such lengths to ruin a business anonymously, it’s their livelihood,” he added.
Please read the 2 part statement below,regarding a malicious story about our restaurant. pic.twitter.com/K1QPx3s0bD
— KarriTwist (@KarriTwist) May 11, 2017
From Wales to Paris and even India, people have gathered round to support Begum’ s business. From dropping by to give her a hug to friendly e-mails, people are coming forward to support Karri Twist.
@KarriTwist I live in Manchester but ill come down with the wife for a curry. This week hopefully 🙂 sorry to hear about your bad press
— i Greenfly (@opgreenfly) 18 May 2017
But after several threats Begum is scared. “I’m scared for my staff and clientele, I am responsible for them and their safety, for myself I can accept a certain degree of risk.”
Begum has now found out the site is registered in Hong Kong but the owner is located in America, she pointed out how difficult it can be to track cybercrime.
“I searched ‘Indian restaurant’ on channel23news and that’s when I found my restaurant and several others. One in Basingstoke, Brighton and Weston-Super-Mare; all Indian cuisine, with exactly the same story attached, just with a different picture,” she added.
It became clear she was not the only Indian restaurant to be targeted.
Currently, there is no legislation to deal with this type of crime, only the Malicious Communications Act, which at present is 14 years and counting out of date.
But as Begum explained she is a small business and she can’t afford to sue everyone who shares this on social media.
“What can I do?” she asked. “How can a small restaurant like us deal with this kind of fake news?
“60 years of working hard can just go like that, it’ s crazy.”