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Arnold, photographed 2018.
|Other names||Gareth Arnoult, Geoff Stevens|
|Years active||2013 - Present|
|Known for||Britain Furst and BFNN|
|Home town||Sheffield, UK|
Gareth Arnold (born 1992), also known as Gareth Arnoult and Geoff Stevens,[no citations needed here] is an English blogger and businessman who rose to prominence in 2014 for his online trolling of the anti-Islamic political party Britain First, by Jim Dowson. In 2015, he warned about the dangers of fake news before the 2016 United State Elections. During the campaign, he created and monetized prank campaign websites to prove his thesis.
In October 2015, Arnold was also involved in a legal dispute with Manchester-based entertainment brand LAD Bible on grounds of trademark, copyright infringement and defamation. The case was resolved when LAD Bible apologised.
Arnold has spoken about his online activities on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Sheffield. He appeared in 2016 BBC Three documentary Troll Hunters that investigated the motivations behind trolling and looked at the extent of online disinhibition.
In 2014, Arnold created a social media account to parody Britain First, called Britain Furst, which was responsible for mass trolling covered by worldwide news media. The Guardian reported that Arnold created the parody account when he realized Britain First were real, having originally mistaken their exaggerated posts as satire.
The rise of Britain Furst gave way to a new wave of parodies of the right-wing within the UK, using memes as a tool for countersignalling to tackle the jihad movement, and helped to magnify failed media stunts of Britain First. Britain Furst is also responsible for inspiring numerous parody accounts including "British First", a prolific trolling account that created the online satire publication NewsThump.
Arnold was interviewed and filmed as part of a BBC Three investigative documentary into online trolling presented by YouTube beauty vlogger Em Ford and technology journalist David McClelland. Arnold spoke how trolling can be a force for positive social change, despite being considered a pejorative term with strong negative connotations in news media.
In December 2015, major media outlets including the i newspaper, reported on a post by Britain Furst saying that former British Prime Minister David Cameron was considering banning Christmas in the UK to appease minority groups who supposedly hated Christmas. This prompted outrage in Britain First supporters. Days later, Arnold recorded and produced a parody cover of Coldplay's "Fix You" called "Fix UK" mocking the anti-immigrant mentality of the far-right group.
Britain Furst has also been responsible for claims that, "Channel 5 would stop airing Peppa Pig in Muslim majority areas", and that the NHS was, "withholding donated organs from non-immigrants". These posts caught the attention of political groups such as UKIP and Cllr Muhammed Butt, Labour Leader of Brent London Borough Council.
Dr. Sarah Maitland, a Senior Lecturer of Translation Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, defined Britain Furst as an example of "cultural translation in action", in her 2017 book What is Cultural Transformation?. Maitland decries the impact of "Facebooktavism", a portmanteau of Facebook and slacktivism, and chronicles the works of Britain Furst to explain how it became a "cultural phenomenon" in its mission to disrupt the right-wing.
In a 2015 interview with VICE Media, Arnold warned that the line between journalism and manufactured news was "beginning to blur". He argued that people no longer care to believe what they read but simply share articles across social media if they "agree with the headline".
To demonstrate this, Arnold started satirical news website "bfnn (sometimes stylised as "BFNN") as a proof of concept. BFFN manufactured news stories that mimicked red-top tabloids, covering themes of immigration, hyperbolic political correctness and the Islamification of the United Kingdom. The articles created by Arnold cited unreliable and often irrelevant sources, but rather a similar thing or topic to give it added authority.
The response to the fake news articles received mixed praise and criticism. Arnold was subject to cease and desist requests from British supermarket chain ASDA and pub-chain J D Wetherspoon PLC respectively, for implying that the supermarket chain was to "ban pork and alcohol sales in Muslim majority areas" and the trial of a "Muslim-friendly" day in the pub-chain which would see them not serving alcohol but serving curry. Both ASDA and J D Wetherspoon issued press releases to address this. Former leader of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson took to social media to condemn these articles, not realizing they were in fact fake.
Arnold used viral marketing tactics during the 2016 United States General Election and fake news and generated £15,000 in online advertising revenue with Google Adsense to highlight how easy it had become. Arnold created prank campaign websites "Reasons to Vote Trump", "Reasons to Vote Hillary", "Reasons to Vote Bush" and "Reasons to Vote Bernie" from a hotel room. The websites, in their reasons to vote for the named candidate, simply stated "There aren't any", with Facebook and Twitter share buttons and online adverts from Google. This encouraged supporters of opposing candidates to propagate them across social media.
Media company BuzzFeed analyzed the top 20 fake news stories about the election and compared them to the top 20 election news stories from 19 major media outlets, they found that the fake news articles got more engagement on Facebook. According to Buzzfeed, this proves that, during the election, fake news outperformed genuine news coverage on Facebook in terms of website clicks, likes, comments and shares.
LAD Bible trademark dispute
In October 2015, the Daily Telegraph reported that LAD Bible forged a legal challenge against Arnold threatening to sue for defamation claiming that "to allow such malicious activity to remain unchallenged fundamentally undermines its business", following an attack on the company by Arnold accusing them of bootstrapping and monetizing content they do not have ownership rights to exploit for commercial gain.
Around the same time, LAD Bible and rival brand UNILAD were facing similar accusations from content creators who alleged their work was being used without proper attribution or credit. The revelation that the LAD Bible had used Arnold's copyrighted works in the past without attribution, credit or permission led to a public outcry. Arnold posted a video to YouTube that has since been deleted, drunkenly calling out the law firm who sent the legal letter on behalf of the entertainment brand, talking incoherently and laughing.
Though attempting to silence Arnold through the use of litigation, the opposite happened. The Streisand effect phenomenon caused Arnold's original polemic, "The LAD bible are monumental w**kers, and not for the reason you think" to go viral, soon reaching the number one position on American social news aggregator Reddit, one of the Internet's most popular websites.
We’re certainly not going to take action against these guys, who are clearly very funny and whose work we admire. I need to find out exactly what happened within our company and how it got this far. In the meantime I want to personally apologise as we were clearly in the wrong.
As a result of the public pressure against LAD Bible following the dispute, the entertainment provider committed to investing in original content, introduced monetary rewards for crowdsourced content submissions and regularly encourages social responsibility campaigns.
Chief of staff for MP
In June 2019, Arnold was reported as being chief of staff for Independent MP Jared O'Mara. On 23 July 2019, he publicly resigned his position by posting on O'Mara's Twitter account. In a brutal tirade, Arnold said that O'Mara was a "selfish, degenerate prick" and the "most morally bankrupt person I have ever met".
Arnold's tactics and online trolling have garnered criticism from multiple journalists and news organizations, openly questioning whether he is prejudiced towards the working classes and whether his actions inadvertently helped to promote right-wing agenda. Arnold has been accused of demonizing working class culture by The QuietusTemplate:'s Jessie Thompson, using it as a lens to mock far-right extremism: "Britain Furst’s popular Facebook page makes apparent, people don’t seem to check their responses to the working class in the same way that they do towards race and religion. I admitted that there were moments when people laughed that shocked me, seeming to show that class prejudice is still often unconsciously displayed." It has been suggested by Artefact MagazineTemplate:'s Deek Hussain Jama that Arnold's inflammatory fake news stories taken out of context, could be considered "ammunition for the far right", an unintended consequence of Poe's Law: "[Britain Furst was] so good at parodying xenophobic views, and essentially producing ammunition for the right-wing side of the political spectrum, that it could be considered as dangerous as genuine propaganda."
Arnold has been listed by Business Insider in their annual 42 under 42 awards in 2017 for Yorkshire, a profile of young entrepreneurs. Coincidentally, previous recipients of this award in 2016 include LAD Bible founders Solly Solomou and Arian Kalantari.
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