ST. PAUL — Right-wing social media users and digital websites masquerading as legitimate news sources are spreading misinformation about a robbery and beating outside Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.
Twitter and Facebook are awash with surveillance video of a group of men brutally assaulting a man outside the stadium in early August.
The video shows about a dozen men trying to take the victim’s cellphone with assailants viciously kicking him, ripping off his clothes and going through his pockets. At one point, as the victim lies on the ground, someone rides over him with a bicycle.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has charged 18 people, ages 15 to 27, in connection with two separate incidents in downtown Minneapolis, including the assault of the man outside the stadium.
Since the video surfaced, social media users have spread the lie that the suspects are Somali. A Minneapolis Police Department spokesman said none of the suspects were Somali.
“Whereas the Minneapolis Police Department does not engage in immigration enforcement issues, there is no indication that any of the individuals arrested for the recently highly publicized robberies and assaults were Somali,” John Elder, a spokesperson with the Minneapolis Police Department, told Sahan Journal.
But facts haven’t stopped the hate.
Most tweets and headlines about the incident mention that the attack took place in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s district, but it’s apparent that the right-wing hate for Ilhan is driving this false claim against Somalis.
On Wednesday morning, Ilhan tweeted that President Donald Trump is putting her life in danger after the president of the United States tweeted a video of Ilhan dancing, falsely accusing her of celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“This is from a [Congressional Black Caucus] event we hosted this weekend to celebrate black women in Congress,” Ilhan tweeted in response to Trump’s tweet. “The President of the United States is continuing to spread lies that put my life at risk.”
What is Twitter doing to combat this misinformation?”
Jaylani Hussein from CAIR Minnesota said it has become a pattern for President Trump to unfairly target the congresswoman and the website needs to be held accountable.
“The first thing is here we go again, here is a president who is continuously targeting a member of Congress with false information,” Hussein said. “All of the information that is creating the fear in our communities that is inciting violence against our communities are all being shared and used on social media. And Twitter has to be able to respond and delete this tweet.”
A representative from Twitter told MPR News that the social media site did not take action on the tweet.
The tweet from President Trump remains on his Twitter account, saying Omar will cause him to win Minnesota in 2020. The link to the tweeted video indicates it’s been removed.
On Twitter, a tweet about the incident in Minneapolis says: “A group of Somali’s in @IlhanMN’s district we’re caught brutally beating & robbing a man. This is the latest in a string of violent robberies by Somali gangs.”
The tweet has a video embed showing the assault of the man. The video has so far garnered more than 2 million views. The tweet got 6,000 retweets and nearly 10,000 likes.
A Daily Caller video of the incident posted on Facebook that also falsely claims the attackers are a Somali mob has more than 300,000 views. A video of the incident it also posted on YouTube has more than 17,000 views.
Sahan Journal has contacted Twitter about the post and YouTube and Facebook about the video.
A Twitter employee said she has internally reported the video. So far, the social media giant has not deleted the tweet, and we haven’t received a response.
MPR News contributed to this story.