Summary of eRumor:
ANTIFA protesters sabotaged emergency services in California and Arizona by snipping fiber optic cables used by emergency responders.
False rumors that ANTIFA protesters sabotaged emergency services in California and Arizona by snipping fiber optic cables are based on a 2015 report that had nothing to do with ANTIFA.
Claims that ANTIFA, a leftist group dedicated to combatting fascism, has advocated for, or deliberately cut, fiber cables in California stem from an outdated post from 2015, an imposter ANTIFA Twitter handle dedicated to spreading misinformation about the group, and fringe blog sites that falsely cited the tweets and 2015 report as proof that ANTIFA sabotaged emergency services.
The original report about saboteurs sniping fiber optic cables was published by Earth First! Newswire on August 3, 2015, under the headline, “Fiber Optic Cable Sabotage Continues into California after Arizona’s Digital Umbilical Cord Severed.” The report, which predates the existence of ANTIFA and doesn’t name the group, states that about a dozen instances of clipped fiber optic cables had been reported since 2014, and that the FBI was investigating but had no motive or suspects at the time:
The latest attack occurred in the San Joaquin Valley town of Stockton, disrupting Internet, mobile phone, and 911 service for tens of thousands of AT&T and Verizon customers in three counties east of San Francisco. Service was restored about a day after the Tuesday incident.
The FBI, which is investigating the attacks, has not stated a motive, but it said the attacks usually occur in remote areas where there are no surveillance cameras. The initial attacks on California telecommunications lines began in July 2014. As of yet the campaign of attacks have continued with no one being arrested.
AT&T said in a statement that the damage occurred to “1,200 feet of a fibre run that required 192 pairs of fiber to be re-fused. That’s a ton of capacity. So this was a major trunk and 1,200 feet of it was damaged.”
The cable is about as thick as a finger and is encased in a hard, flexible conduit. The FBI said that whoever is responsible may appear as telecom maintenance workers or “possess tools consistent with that job role.”
Since February the FBI has also been investigating the Arizona sabotage without any arrests as well.
The Twitter handle @OfficialAntifa, an imposter account operated by opponents of ANTIFA to spread misinformation to portray ANTIFA as a domestic terrorists group, linked to the 2015 report and falsely claimed responsibility for the fiber attacks on June 30, 2017:
The @OfficialAntifa account first gained widespread attention over Memorial Day weekend 2017 when it falsely claimed responsibility (on ANTIFA’s behalf) for vandalism and graffiti campaigns on Memorial Day. The posts included photos of vandalized veteran grave markers and graffitied memorials. However, reverse Google image searches reveal those images date back years and didn’t happen over Memorial Day weekend, and didn’t have anything to do with ANTIFA:
After the initial posts about ANTIFA sabotaging emergency services that started with the imposter @OfficialAntifa handle, copycats began tweeting excerpts from the 2015 story and falsely attributing them to ANTIFA activists. These tweets were then picked up and archived by fringe blog sites over Fourth of July weekend 2017. These posts also cited the 2015 article to claim that ANTIFA sabotaged emergency services, but that’s not the case.
There’s no indication that ANTIFA was behind the 2015 attacks on fiber optic cables in California and Northern Arizona, and there weren’t any reports of new attacks over the Fourth of July weekend in 2017. For those reasons, we’re calling this one “fiction.”
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