A POLICE investigation has been launched after malicious social media trolls targeted a Wigan councillor.
Two accounts appeared on Twitter claiming to be parodies of the leader of the Standish Independents group Coun Gareth Fairhurst.
Both contained defamatory – and wholly false – content attempting to undermine the councillor’s character and also posted deeply offensive material aimed at his family.
The accounts, which state in their respective biography sections that they are parodies, were created on Thursday and were still operating throughout Friday.
The matter was reported to Greater Manchester Police by Coun Fairhurst’s family with detectives now conducting inquiries.
A spokesman for GMP said: “We can confirm that this incident is now under investigation after officers received a complaint of harassment with regard to social media accounts on Thursday evening.”
The Fairhurst family is prominent within the borough’s political scene with Coun Fairhurst’s wife Debbie and father George also representing Standish on Wigan Council.
His sister, Angie Bland, is a parish councillor in Shevington and a former borough representative.
Coun Fairhurst, who stood in this year’s parliamentary elections in Wigan, is an often outspoken representative who is known for his vehement support of community campaigns such as Save Ashfield Park. During the run-up to this year’s local elections he was involved in a number of social media spats with residents and fellow candidates about his father’s successful re-election campaign.
Standish was one of the borough’s most hotly-contested wards with Coun Fairhurst Snr winning a close-run contest ahead of Conservative and Labour Party
Twitter, the social media giant, permits parody accounts as long as they make their status clear.
However, the company takes a dim view on users posting defamatory and offensive content and have in the past helped authorities track down rogue accounts.
The Fairhurst family turned down an approach from the Evening Post to comment.