A TWEET claiming that a new ferry service between Scotland and mainland Europe has gone viral - unfortunately, it is not true.

The author of the tweet, one “RS Archer”, claimed: “Dirk De Fauw, chairman of the Zeebrugge port in Belgium has announced a new ferry service that will by-pass England and go straight to Scotland.

“Planning for the future perhaps? #Scottishindependence”

The claim has sparked excitement in the online Yes movement, being shared on Facebook groups and even prompting a response from an MP.

However, it is not true.

Dirk De fauw is the Mayor of Bruges and the chair of the Zeebrugge Port Authority, but he has not said any such thing.

In fact, a Sporza report from February 1 quoted the mayor as saying that a new ferry link between Belgium and the UK could be up and running “with a bit of luck … before the start of the summer season”.

There is no guarantee this would be with Scotland though, as a possible connection to north east England has also been suggested.

READ MORE: Talks to bring back direct Scotland to Europe ferry link at 'crucial stage'

De fauw said: “These are not easy matters to get organised. A passenger line on its own is loss-making. Shipping companies are not interested, they favour a mixed line combining passengers with freight.

“But at the minute there aren’t all that many ships available with the right capacity to carry both passengers and freight. We have to wait and see if there is enough interest.”

The National: Douglas Chapman, SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife

SNP MP Douglas Chapman (above) has been working with authorities in Belgium to try and restore a link between Scotland and the continent. Rosyth previously had Scotland’s last direct ferry link to Europe, but passenger services were scrapped in 2010, with freight following in 2018.

The Dunfermline and West Fife MP said on Wednesday: "Given the disastrous effects of Brexit on our exporters, it’s vital to keep up the pressure over this issue.

“I do think there is momentum building, and I am determined to keep pursuing this until we see results.”

Who is RS Archer?

The short answer is, nobody. He doesn’t exist.

The Twitter profile @archer_rs has just shy of 90,000 followers and claims in its bio to belong to the “author of the 'David Saunders' book series”.

“My wife and I are to be found either in the Dordogne or on our travels,” it adds.

Previous versions of the biography ended “or in our GXV Patagonia”. A photograph of this expedition vehicle also previously featured, but has since been replaced with generic images of French countryside.

The “David Saunders” book series does not exist.

So who’s that in the picture?

The RS Archer account has used several different images of different men through its existence.

The first archived version of his Twitter profile - made in July 2020, three months after the account was created - shows a younger, bearded man. Searching for this image on the internet shows it has been used widely and is most likely a stock image.

The National:

One example of its use is on a Glasgow-based dentistry practice, while the website Top Doctors UK features it on an article about stress management.

The second image the account used was in fact an image of Hollywood megastar George Clooney wearing a facemask. An article from People magazine suggests the image of Clooney was taken in October 2020.

The National:

The third, the current image being used by the anonymous troll, seems to be of model Gary Greenwood.

The photo used by the account appears on the modeling agency Kult London’s website. The National was told there is "absolutely no chance" that the image would be featured as such if it were not Greenwood.

The account addressed the fact it uses a fake profile image in an earlier series of tweets, claiming that it also used a fake name, but insisting that the other content was real.

What’s the troll’s aim?

It seems the troll’s sole aim is to sow disinformation and harvest likes and retweets.

Regardless of the account’s dubious intentions, it provides a good example of how such falsehoods can rapidly spread on social media. Too often people are taken at their word, especially if that word confirms our own inherent biases or plays to news we’d like to hear.

Archer's first major hit came on June 29, 2020, after a series of tweets claiming to tell the story of some angry and dense Brexiteers with a home in France went viral. The tweet thread went on for days, only finally concluding on July 2.

By that time it had attracted the anger of many Brexiteers and allowed countless Remainers to bathe in schadenfreude. The first tweet in that thread is now pinned to RS Archer’s account as a kind of trophy. It has more than 136,000 likes, 53,000 retweets, and almost 6000 comments.

However, like RS Archer’s claims about his book series, the tweets were complete fiction.

Arguments with Unionists

The ferry tweet is not the first time the RS Archer account has waded into Scottish politics.

On January 25 the account accrued around 3000 likes after writing: “It is fitting on this day, of all days I have just made a substantial financial donation to the cause of Scottish independence.

“There was a time I was firmly opposed but those days are past. The Union must end for the good of Scotland and England.”

Many Yessers praised the message, taking it at face value.

Kevin Hague, the founder of pro-Union think-tank These Islands, took exception to the claim.

After sending tweets attacking the troll’s declared pro-independence position, Hague began to catch on.

“So you’ve made up a fake author profile and used a stock image and you expect to be taken seriously?

“There’s a huge difference between choosing to remain anonymous and creating a phoney identity to try and deceive people. Begone,” he wrote in the end.