LONDON — An American man living in Scotland said yesterday that he is sorry for posing as a Syrian lesbian blogger who offered vivid accounts of life amid revolt and repression in Damascus, a hoax that highlights the difficulty of sifting truth from fiction online.
Tom MacMaster, 40, said he created the fictional persona of Amina Arraf and the “Gay Girl in Damascus’’ blog to draw attention to conditions in a Middle East convulsed by change.
“I never meant to hurt anyone,’’ the Edinburgh University grad student wrote yesterday in a long apology on the blog. The university said it had suspended MacMaster’s computer privileges while it investigated whether he had breached its rules.
Gay rights activists and bloggers say MacMaster has endangered real people who are trying to tell their stories in authoritarian societies.
“He completely stole the limelight of real LGBT bloggers and activists in the Middle East and diverted it in a negative way,’’ said Dan Littauer of the website Gay Middle East.
Daniel Nassar, the pseudonym of a Syrian man affiliated with Gay Middle East, said MacMaster had put all gay Syrians in danger and said he would sue if he could.
The blog postings about life as a Syrian-American lesbian grabbed international attention soon after they began in February.
Alongside video clips and erotic poems, the writer told of her childhood in Virginia, daily life as a gay woman in Damascus, the growing protest movement, and hopes for a future Syria freed from “dictators and rule by strong men.’’