Craig Byrne said he felt like he was dreaming when he saw his face on an offensive meme
Craig Byrne said he felt like he was dreaming when he saw his face on an offensive meme

Man with rare genetic condition Apert Syndrome speaks out after becoming a meme

Police say they are investigating the incident as a disability hate crime

Olivia Blair@livblair
Friday 06 January 2017 17:04

A man who was the subject of a "vile" meme has spoken out after finding thousands of supporters online.

Craig Byrne, 30, from east Glasgow has Apert syndrome: A rare genetic condition where a baby’s skull forms short from front to back but wide from side to side, the facial bones are also affected and fingers and toes are joined or webbed.

On Tuesday, Mr Byrne’s brother Thomas saw a photo of his brother on Twitter being used as a meme. The year-old photo, where Mr Byrne is smiling at the grounds of Glasgow Celtic’s football team and wearing his team’s shirt, was shared by a Twitter user with an offensive caption.

As the incident occurred late at night, Mr Byrne’s father Thomas said his family, who were all “very upset” over the tweet, desperately tried to get the person responsible to delete the “foul” tweet, which had amassed hundreds of likes and retweets, before his son saw it.

Unfortunately, Mr Byrne did see the photo after the man who posted it failed to delete it despite requests from Thomas – who also claims he alerted the police and the charity which supports people with disfigurements, Changing Faces.

“I was very upset,” My Byrne told The Independent. “I woke up [and saw it] and thought I was dreaming.”

The tweet was eventually removed following the efforts of Changing Faces and the account was suspended.

Mr Byrne went from having 47 followers on Twitter to 4,500 as support for him poured in from all over the world: "I felt people supporting and backing me. I feel so much better now,” he says.

Mr Byrne, who says he has not experienced bullying like that before, believes he was picked on because Celtic beat Rangers FC, who the perpetrator of the tweet apparently supports, over the weekend given the well-known history of animosity between the clubs. He says he believes he is “bigger and stronger” than the man who targeted him.

Dr James Partridge, the CEO of Changing Faces, said: “I don’t call them ‘trolls’ because that trivialises what they do; they are abusers. Abusers on social media sites need to understand that we will not stand by and let it happen. We’re pleased to see the outpouring of love for Craig, but we need to see more decisive and much faster action from the social media organisations themselves. You can report a post for being racist or homophobic, but not for being disablist or for abusing someone’s appearance. That has to change.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland told The Independent: “On the 5th January 2017, police received a report of offensive communications. Inquiries are ongoing to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the incident. Police are currently treating the incident as a disability hate crime."