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Countering conspiracy - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.


On Saturday, Liverpool played Tottenham in the English Premier League. The game saw one of biggest errors of the televised sporting era, in which a goal from Luis Diaz was wrongly disallowed despite the support of technology and the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Chaos ensued, as fans demanded answers, apologies, and moral reparations.

The mistake went viral. Immediately. With images highlighting the error shared widely across forums and social media platforms. The referees’ association hurried to release the kind of Chat GPT prompted statement intended to quell conspiracy that invariably falls on deaf ears. And then the amateur sleuthing and questions began.

How could the statement explaining the error have been issued before the subsequently promised investigation had been carried out? Why wasn’t the immediately identified human error stopped by one of four people who seemingly had the opportunity? Why wouldn’t the officials release the audio messages that would show what had actually happened?

That demand for the audio messages is crucial because it would provide transparency. And when we don’t have transparency, we’re forced to rely on conspiracy, be that in sports, in culture, or in politics.

And so, inevitably, in the absence of transparency one user dug out the fact that the VAR team who made the error had been in Abu Dhabi 48 hours before the Liverpool game. First class flights, five-star accommodation, and a £20,000 fee for refereeing a game in the UAE Pro League. Paid for by the UAE. The same UAE whose Abu Dhabi United Group owns 81% in Manchester City, Liverpool’s major league rivals for the past half decade or so.

Now I’m not saying this is match fixing, much as I would never outright say that a certain US Supreme Court Justice is compromised due to accepting gifts of luxury holidays, yacht cruises, private jet flights, private school fees, property renovations, alma mater donations, and art from a certain wealthy Republican donor.

But when we don’t have transparency, we’re forced to rely on conspiracy.

More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations

Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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