Social media users misled by parody post about 'WEF chief congratulating Australian PM'

A post on an X account parodying Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying he had received a congratulatory call from World Economic Forum chief Klaus Schwab has been shared by Australian Facebook users who falsely presented it as being from his verified account. It circulated shortly after Australia passed digital identity legislation, prompting privacy concerns from some politicians. But Albanese did not post about a call with Schwab, and the photo used by the parody account was old.

"This is not a joke," read part of the caption alongside a screenshot shared on Facebook on May 20, 2024.

The screenshot showed a post shared one day before from a misleading X account that used the name "Anthony Albanese". The account had a blue check mark and featured the Australian prime minister as its profile picture (archived link).

Referring to the founder of the World Economic Forum, an international non-governmental organisation often subject to conspiracy theories and misinformation, the screenshotted post read: "This morning, I received a call from Klaus Schwab. He expressed his congratulations on the successful passing of our Digital ID legislation.

"Mr. Schwab acknowledged our forward-thinking approach and the leadership we have shown in driving these advancements."

Screenshot of the false Facebook post captured on June 13, 2024

It was shared after Australia passed a digital identification law on May 16, aimed at streamlining the process of verifying a person's identity (archived links here and here).

There were concerns, however, that the legislation did not do enough to protect privacy and that the voluntary scheme could eventually be made compulsory (archived link). Writing on X, hard-right senator Pauline Hanson called it "dystopian", saying her party was committed to repealing it (archived link).

The screenshot of the X post purportedly from Albanese was shared by dozens of other Australia-based Facebook users who presented it as being from his verified account.

One account called Albanese and Schwab "criminals". Another said Albanese was "proudly boasting about a call from his puppet master".

But the post was from a parody account that previously misled social media users.

Parody account

The X post was originally posted on the parody account "@AlboIsPM" on May 16 (archived link).

There are several differences between the account and the Australian prime minister's verified account on the social media platform (archived links here and here).

The parody account's full display name, truncated in the false posts, is "Anthony Albanese Australian Labor Parody", while the display name on Albanese's verified account is just "Anthony Albanese".

The parody account has a blue check mark given to paying subscribers and gifted to users with big followings. Albanese's verified account, meanwhile, has the grey check mark given to government officials and organisations (archived link). 

Finally, the parody account's bio page features a link to InfoWars -- a site that has repeatedly published misinformation debunked by AFP, including here and here.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the parody account (left) and Albanese's verified account (right):

Screenshot comparison between the parody account (left) and Albanese's verified account (right)

A reverse image search of the photo used in the parody account's post found it was previously used on Albanese's real X account on May 23, 2022, after his election victory (archived link).

"This afternoon I spoke with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson affirming the strength of Australia's close relationship with the United Kingdom," the post read, tagging his former British counterpart's official X account.

Screenshot comparison of the photo as used in the post by the parody account (left) and the photo used on Albanese’s real account (right)

As of June 14, Albanese had not posted on any of his official social media channels that he was congratulated by the WEF chief.

Schwab and the WEF have also not publicly commented on Australia's digital ID legislation.

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