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These Doctors Pushed Masking, Covid Lockdowns on Twitter. Turns Out, They Don’t Exist

By Matthew Kupfer • The Standard • December 13, 2022

Last month, Dr. Robert Honeyman lost their sister to Covid. They wrote about it on Twitter and received dozens of condolences, over 4,000 retweets and 43,000 likes.

Exactly one month later, on Dec. 12, Honeyman wrote that another tragedy had befallen their family.

“Sad to announce that my husband has entered a coma after being in hospital with Covid. The doctor is unsure if he will come out,” they tweeted. “This year has been the toughest of my life losing my sister to this virus. This is the first time in my life I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Again, the condolences and well-wishes rolled in. But there was a problem: Honeyman wasn’t real.

The transgender “Doctor of Sociology and Feminist studies” with a “keen interest in poetry” who used they/them pronouns was, in fact, a stock photo described on DepositPhotos, a royalty-free image site, as “Smiling happy, handsome latino man outside—headshot portrait.”

Their supposedly comatose husband, Dr. Patrick C. Honeyman, was also fake. His Twitter photo had been stolen from an insurance professional in Wayne, Indiana.

The stock photo used as Dr. Robert Honeyman’s avatar on Twitter. (Screenshot)

The photograph used as Dr. Patrick C. Honeyman’s avatar on Twitter. (Screenshot)

The two fake doctors, whose accounts urged extreme caution about Covid-19, were part of a network of at least four fake accounts that touted their ties to the LGBTQ+ community, vocally advocated for mask-wearing and social distancing, and dished out criticism to those they felt were not taking the pandemic seriously.

The Honeymans could not be reached for comment, as they do not exist. At publication time, Robert Honeyman’s account was no longer active.

The fake doctors were uncovered by Joshua Gutterman Tranen, a self-described “gay writer” pursuing a master’s of fine arts at Bennington College. He saw Robert Honeyman’s tweet about their husband being in a coma, noticed people he followed also followed them, and thought that they might be part of the LGBTQ+ academic community.

But after 10 minutes of googling, Gutterman Tranen concluded that Robert Honeyman’s photo was a stock image and their biography stretched boundaries of believability: an academic who left no traces on academic websites and had lost two family members to Covid in late 2022, despite masking and distancing.

The character looked like “liberal Mad Libs,” Gutterman Tranen said.

“I’m a self-identified leftist, and I understand that people have a lot of different identities, but it felt concocted in the lab about how many identities and horrible experiences can we put on one person,” he said.

The Standard ran Dr. Robert Honeyman’s Twitter photo through a Google reverse image search and found that it was a widely available stock photo. (Screenshot)

It is unclear who created the two doctors, but their bios and personas signpost identities meant to appeal to a certain type of Twitter denizen: liberal, pro-diversity and concerned about Covid. Or meant to provoke the opposite of that type of person.

Both doctors present themselves as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Robert displayed the trans and Ukrainian flags in their Twitter name. Patrick had a rainbow flag in his bio.

Robert wrote openly about suffering from MPX, an infectious disease that caused San Francisco to declare a state of emergency earlier this year and had largely spread among men who have sex with men. “Don’t believe what the media have been sharing. […] it’s a horrible disease that has had me bed ridden,” they tweeted in July. They also claimed to have been the victim of a transphobic attack in October. […]

All four accounts urged caution about Covid. They also amplified the voices of other Twitter users calling on the public to mask, vaccinate and socially distance. At times, they criticized policies that they felt undermined pandemic safety and individuals who they believed did not take Covid seriously enough.

But as Twitter users responded to Gutterman Tranen’s thread on the Honeymans, they also discovered the accounts expressing views that appeared implausible.

“Come on china! Stop protesting, I wish we had similar lockdown measures here,” Robert Honeyman wrote in a Nov. 27 tweet. … Full article

January 9, 2023 - Posted by | Deception | , ,

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