Published: 06:00, 13 May 2021
| Updated: 09:04, 13 May 2021
A journalist has spoken about how he felt when he discovered that his picture had played a part in an elaborate bogus news website ruse.
Last week, Kent Online revealed how a site called Kent Chronicle, touting itself as the county's "third largest online news publication", had, since January, lifted stories in their entirety from KentOnline and attributed them to different, made-up journalists.
The site, now taken down, was the creation of 17-year-old school boy Lawrence Moss, from Ryarsh.
Moss, when asked about the site by reporter Rhys Griffiths, admitted designing the website but denied being involved in the content distribution.
The majority of headshots of reporters who supposedly worked for Kent Chronicle, found on the website along with a short bio, were stock images, found scattered throughout the web.
However, one image of the Chronicle's 'sports reporter' Ben Roching, was actually that of a young journalist based in Scotland, Iain Leggat.
The same image had also been used on a Linkedin profile created for Ben Roching and remains there, despite Mr Leggat raising the issue with the site.
Kent Online reporter Rhys Griffiths speaks to Lawrence Moss about the Kent Chronicle
Mr Leggat is a digital reporter covering TV & Culture for JPI Media.
He only found out how his picture had been used when contacted by KentOnline last week.
Mr Leggat said: "I said to my partner I felt like I had been reverse catfished. On a personal level it was upsetting, a bit confusing.
"As a journalist I am used to writing stories and then suddenly I was in one."
The term 'catfish' refers to people creating fake identities online, often to lure other web users.
Mr Leggat went on: "On a more professional note I was a bit more concerned. I didn't like how easy it all felt and the fact I was unaware of it.
"What if someone had recognised my face, they would have thought 'what is he doing there?'"
"In the long run I wasn't that worried about my identity being stolen, I just thought it was a little strange that somebody was using my image so closely directed to my job.
"Fortunately they didn't use my name or my company or anything really linked to me, just my photo."
KentOnline first traced the photo of Ben Roching to an interview on journalism.co.uk with Mr Leggat, from November 2020.
However, Mr Leggat says it's possible the image, which used to be his profile picture on Twitter was found another way online.
Mr Leggat finished by giving some advice to other journalists, following his experience.
"It has made me realise it isn't necessary a weird thing to do a general search on your name and check if your work has been accurately reported elsewhere."
"Fortunately they didn't use my name or my company or anything really linked to me, just my photo..."
Matt Aspinall, from NLA media access says clone and bogus news websites such as the Kent Chronicle are on the rise and not going away any time soon.
Mr Aspinall is head of publisher services at NLA and heads up Text Tracker, a copyright infringement service.
Text Tracker identifies when clients' articles or websites have been lifted or cloned and then gets MLA work to get it taken down.
In 2020 NLA removed about 20,000 articles across 700 websites and Mr Aspinall suspects there will be more this year.
Moss, when pressed on the identity of the unnamed "partner" who was responsible for the content on the Kent Chronicle site, preferred not to say.
However, the site was taken down and was no longer accessible less than 30 minutes after KentOnline spoke to Moss about it.
Shortly after, Moss sent this message.
"I've just taken the website down from my end, and will have a chat to my partner tonight about why it was done in this way in the first place.
"Obviously this is not acceptable and I did not wish for this to happen or for any detriment on your end. I do apologise for this and my lack of awareness as to what was going on."