On the evening of 21 April, BuzzFeed News broke the story of the rise of the Milifandom – an online community of teenage fangirls of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
We also spoke to its self-proclaimed leader, 17-year-old Abby, aka @twcuddleston.
Within 24 hours, a journalist from The Sun visited both of Abby's parents' homes and her grandmother's home, even though Abby says she had not given away her location, her surname, or even any photos of herself.
Abby told BuzzFeed News what happened:
"It was around 6pm on Wednesday, so like, a day after the hashtag started. They knocked on the door and asked for an interview.
"My mum said no, and asked how she knew my address. She said the electoral roll – but I'm not on it as I'm 17 and am not registered to vote. I then also got a text from my dad asking me why he and my grandma both had Sun reporters at their door.
"That's actually how my dad found out about the whole thing – they managed to find me before I had even had a chance to tell my dad!"
"We were all very freaked out," Abby said, "as I had not posted any pictures, told anyone my last name, told anyone my location, or any of the like."
Abby said her grandmother was not at all happy with the visit.
"She lives by herself in a bungalow and they had no right to disturb her like that," she said. "My grandma was not impressed – she was ready to practically fight them off!"
Abby said the journalist who spoke to her mother "said they knew where I lived because in The Guardian it was reported that I lived in St Helens. But that was wrong."
Another Sun journalist, Jake Ryan, said that Abby had been found from the electoral register on Twitter:
Abby said the reporter from The Sun was not "rude or unpleasant", but that the visit was confusing nonetheless.
"Just confused about how they got my address so quick when I had posted no information and clearly said I wasn't giving interviews and am technically still a child," she said.
Abby's tweets about the reporter's visits received lots of support online.
A spokesperson for The Sun told BuzzFeed News that Abby's address "was discovered through completely legal means" and provided the following statement:
The Sun sought to speak to Abby as she was at the centre of a news story and had already commented in public to The Guardian. Her address was discovered through completely legal means from information in the public domain.
A female journalist was sent to see if there was any scope for comment, and her mother said "No". This journalist did not see nor speak to Abby, but did leave a business card in case Abby changed her mind.
The Editors' Code prevents journalists from interviewing children under the age of 16 without consent. Even though Abby is 17, The Sun first sought to speak to her parents. The Sun has still not spoken to Abby at all, unlike various other newspapers, and no story has been published. We entirely respect her wishes not to speak to us.
We do not think our behaviour - which follows standard journalistic practice - was in breach of the Editors' Code or in any way unethical.
It is still not clear if the address of her mother, her father, or her grandmother was found first – nor how their surnames were discovered. Abby had made no reference to the Milifandom on any social media account apart from Twitter. In addition, her father and her grandmother were not even aware of her Twitter account until the Sun reporter's visit, and her mother only became aware of it an hour beforehand.
Hannah Jewell is a senior staff writer for BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Jewell at email@example.com.
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