A Sikh man from Canada was at the centre of a social media storm after a photo of him was digitally altered to portray him as one of the suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks.
The image of Veerender Jubbal, which was changed to show him holding a Quran and what appeared to be a suicide vest, spread so quickly in the wake of Friday’s carnage that it was published on the front page of one of Spain’s largest newspapers and used by two Italian newspapers. An Italian TV channel with nearly 2 million Twitter followers also posted the image.
The image, which began to circulate on Saturday afternoon, was even shared on the Telegram messenger app by Khilafah News, a pro-Islamic State group. Several posts on social media described Jubbal as a “Sikh convert to Islam”.
However, some users on social media did a little digging around and found that the digitally altered image was based on a bathroom selfie of Jubbal from August, wearing a turban and holding an iPad in his hands.
Although it isn’t clear who edited Jubbal’s image, reports have suggested that it was his vehement criticism of the Gamergate movement that made him the target for this particular smear campaign.
Gamers are absolute garbage like I have been saying for a full year. People will not stop harassing, and bothering me. I am cute as gosh.— Veerender Jubbal (@Veeren_Jubbal) November 14, 2015
Gamergate is an online movement that centers around sexism and misogyny in video game culture. It started in August 2014 when a former boyfriend of game developer Zoe Quinn wrote a 9,000-word blog post accusing her of entering into relationships with video game journalists for positive coverage of her text-based game, Depression Quest. Quinn was the victim of death threats and cyber-bullying when she was trying to publish the game and eventually had to leave her house, fearing for her life.
Jubbal took to Twitter on Saturday to clear things up with this post: “People are editing, and photoshopping my selfies as if I am one of the people causing the issues/problems in Paris.”
He pointed out the altered image had spread to the point where others had to tweet that it was photoshopped. Jubbal also tweeted that a cousin had called him from India after seeing the image.
You can all check the last retweets. Let us start with basics. Never been to Paris. Am a Sikh dude with a turban. Lives in Canada.— Veerender Jubbal (@Veeren_Jubbal) November 14, 2015
This whole thing puts me in a bad position in the sense, where I could be harmed and/or hurt due to this. This is libel from news, and TV.— Veerender Jubbal (@Veeren_Jubbal) November 15, 2015
Jubbal offered to speak to journalists to clear his name as scores of people from around the world tweeted supporting him.
But through it all, Jubbal kept his cool, saying that he was still valuable, rad and “cute as gosh”.