Two restaurants in Great Britain have become the target of vile online smear campaigns claiming they sell human flesh. The cruel pranks originated from a fake news website called Channel23News.com and spread via Facebook.
In Birmingham, the owner of Sam’s Fast Food, Zaheer Ahmed, says he has lost as much as 70% of his earnings due to the hoax.
According to the Birmingham Mail, the police have indeed received reports of the hate campaign attacking, Sam’s Fast Food, a takeout joint or “takeaway” in English parlance. Speaking to the press, Ahmed said that he wanted to reassure his customers that his food is safe, and that apart from dealing with the hate campaign, he’s conducting business as usual.
“I have a very good business and many of my customers are remaining very loyal to me realizing this is crazy,” said Ahmed. “But it has affected my business and some people have been coming into the shop to hurl abuse.”
“I have also had lots of calls asking if I do sell human meat,” he continued. “I just can’t believe some people would believe that. If I was selling human meat I am sure I would have been closed down and spending time in a police cell.”
The Birmingham Mail reports that the smear campaign originated on a website that allows users to publish fake news stories to prank their friends. Users have the option to share those stories on social media, including Facebook.
Ahmed was not named in the hoax story, which falsely claimed that his restaurant (which it did name) had been shut down — for serving human flesh — by the police following an investigation. The story was widely shared in the Birmingham area.
A similar prank targeted a decades-old Indian restaurant in London called Karri Twist, the Daily Mail reported. Its owner, Shinra Begum, says that she received hundreds of calls following the fake news report about her serving human flesh, a report that was widely shared on Facebook. It claimed that nine bodies were found in the freezer following a police raid. Much like Zaheer Ahmed, Begum says that her establishment is under serious threat of closure because of the hoax.
Sadly, neither hoax would have been quite as effective if done on standard English cuisine. But given the selection of ethnic food, the hoaxes may have been easier to perpetuate: they played on people’s fears of the unknown, ultimately damaging these earnest business owners’ hard work to recreate their home country’s food in a new country. It’s disheartening, to say the least.