One day after a deadly attack in central London, Britain's prime minister went to the House of Commons to give a statement. While she was there, an elected official asked for her response to a short message, one that he said was "written by a worker on the London Underground yesterday afternoon, penned on a public notice board shortly after the events."
The words, which he read out loud to Prime Minister Theresa May, were: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us, we will drink tea and jolly well carry on. Thank you."
The member of Parliament said he felt the sign expressed the feelings of the entire country. May, in response, said the sign was a "wonderful tribute," one that has "encapsulated everything everybody in this house has said today."
The sign was not real. It was a hoax, created using an old image generator. As it spread overnight, those who recognized the telltale signs of a fake posted almost immediate debunkings. But by then, the image and the sentiment it contained had taken on a viral life of its own.
A BBC presenter recited the text of the sign on Radio 4's morning news show. Other journalists and elected officials shared it. And when most who'd shared finally realized that the sign wasn't real, the response was the same: Real or not, the sentiment expressed in it speaks for itself.
Fake news and hoaxes routinely take advantage of plausibility. Create a story or image that sounds or looks right to one particular viewpoint, and maybe it'll be shared uncritically. Sometimes, as in the case of the London sign, the hoax spreads by slipping into the chaos of a tragedy, shared by people looking for something inspiring or unifying. But hoaxes also play on fear and division for the same effect: for example, hyper-partisan news sites targeting the most passionate supporters (and, for that matter, opponents) of President Donald Trump.
In the case of the fake London sign, a couple of things were at work. First: Some London Underground stations really do have such message boards. And in the wake of the attack on London, there were some real signs with uplifting messages.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)