Fake Story Spreads on Twitter

One construction worker was killed in a building collapse in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday afternoon, local news outlets reported. But the tragic accident led misinformation accounts and conspiracy theorists on X (formerly Twitter) to falsely claim the incident had taken place in Crown Heights, concocting a wholly fake story about the tunnel beneath the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights suddenly caving in.

As the Borough Park commotion drew hordes of emergency responders, social media vultures went to work, misrepresenting the footage of ambulances, firefighters, and Hasidic Jewish bystanders to push propaganda about Chabad and Jewish people in general.

“BREAKING: 60 FOOT NEW YORK TUNNELS UNDER CHABAD SYNAGOGUE ARE COLLAPSING,” wrote Sulaiman Ahmed, a commentator on X/Twitter who has significantly raised his profile by posting misleading material about the Israel-Hamas war (whereas he previously focused on defending misogynist manosphere influencer Andrew Tate, who is currently facing trial on human trafficking charges in Romania). “Emergency crews rush to stabilize the situation,” Ahmed added. The video shown in the tweet is from the Borough Park collapse site, not Crown Heights, which is some four miles away.

The synagogue passageway, dug illegally and in secret by a splinter sect of Chabad, the Hasidic community which owns the synagogue (the offshoot group sought to retain access to the property), was discovered in early January thanks to a chaotic brawl and several arrests as engineers attempted to fill the tunnel. The story immediately unleashed a storm of antisemitic conspiracy theories alleging a sophisticated underground network used for human trafficking or even ritual sacrifice — a centuries-old conspiracist trope known as blood libel.

Such claims resurged with the widespread and false attribution of images from the Borough Park scene as activity at the Chabad headquarters. “The Jewish sex trafficking tunnels in New York under a synagogue have collapsed,” read one untrue tweet, which included the false claim that “many civilians have been crushed.”

“The semitic tunnels are collapsing at New York City Chabad Headquarters in Brooklyn,” wrote a verified user with more than 130,000 followers. “Do you think other synagogues have tunnels under them, as well?” Another Tate-supporting account asked, “What are they trying to hide?” A self-described “citizen journalist” tweeted with an Israeli flag and smiley face emojis: “Panic among the Jewish community as 60-foot-long tunnels collapse under a Chabad synagogue in New York.” The post added, “It would be interesting if the tunnel investigation were made public.”

And white nationalist Richard Spencer, one of those found liable for the violence of 2017’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, shared a cartoon image of a city building sliding into an open pit, seeming to imply that the “Chabad tunnels” could cause a building collapse. “Many blocks are now compromised bc of the Chabad tunnels,” read one reply. “Someone should sue the f*ck out of the temple.”

Miscaptioned videos of Friday’s deadly accident circulated for hours without any apparent correction from X’s Community Notes feature. (Ahmed’s post, viewed more than 800,000 times, was eventually labeled as inaccurate.) But even some who didn’t erroneously identify it as the aftermath of a collapse at the Chabad synagogue seized the opportunity to indulge in antisemitic fear-mongering. “Jews and their tunnels,” tweeted yet another verified user sharing the clip from Borough Park, referring to it only as a “jewish area.” They went on to wonder, “Could it be that yet another illegal jewish underground network of tunnels, built without proper safety measures, has caused the collapse of the building above them?”

Accounts of what happened at the Chabad synagogue were heavily distorted already. Now it looks as though any incident in Brooklyn where Jews happen to be present can be linked back to those phony narratives in order to deepen and extend the antisemitic views spreading on largely moderation-free X. Don’t be surprised if by next week these influencers are claiming that a Jewish cabal controls the entire subway system.


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