Ex Tory Minister Brooks Newmark is a fool at best, but his entrapment via social media sets a pretty low bar for journalism. A supposed freelance journalist created a fake Twitter account in the name of ‘Sophie Wittams, a twenty something Tory PR girl’, and started to pursue MPs with a view to persuading one of them to drop their trousers on WhatsApp. Mr Newmark duly obliged. The reporter was “carrying out an undercover probe into claims by sources that MPs were using social media networks to meet women”. In this case though it seems that it was “Sophie” who was trying to meet MPs rather than vice-versa. The Twitter account has since been deleted but I found the cache and you can see it here.
We know very little about the journalist responsible other than that he used a fake ID and profile picture. There has been lots of speculation as to whose picture has been used. A number of tweeters have suggested that it is Lisa Kimble, but the G+ account looks fake. A little more likely is Maria Stotskaya a 24 years old Russian with a VKontacke profile that uses the picture. I’m pretty sure the picture is actually of a Swedish model called Malin Sahlén. A reverse search of the image leads to her WeHeartIt page. The original has been removed but there are lots of other images of her and the likeness is pretty strong.
What is far more interesting of course is the real identity of the journalist behind the “Sophie Wittams” Twitter account. The web leaves lots of clues even if you attempt to erase them. There are certainly staff at the Mirror who know. Reporter Matthew Drake who was bylined on the Mirror article must be an individual close to the source. There has also been convincing speculation that Sophie is in fact Guido Fawkes Reporter and Sun contributor Alex Whickam. He appeared to know about the sting before anyone else and has written about being on the receiving end of unwanted attention from MPs.
Update – 11.15pm, 28.09.14
The Swedish model Malin Sahlén has confimed that the picture used was of her and that it was used without her consent “I am shocked and it is unpleasant that the picture was used without permission…I do not want to be exploited in this way and that someone has used my image like this feels really awful”.
Update 2 – 8.10am 30.09.14
Media journalist Steve Hewlett named Alex Whittam as the reported behind the sting on Newsnight last night (Monday 29.09.14).