A large portion of the disinformation on Indian Twitter came from fake and imposter accounts created in the name of journalist Pushpendra Kulshrestha. Some of these accounts had millions of followers. In this article, Alt News has jotted down eight of the most prominent accounts created in Kulshrestha’s name. Two of these accounts were suspended during the course of this article and the remaining six were suspended after this author brought them to Twitter’s notice and reported each of them.
It is noteworthy that none of these accounts clarified that they were parody accounts. A handle using an individual’s name without specifying in the account name or bio that it is a parody account is in violation of Twitter’s rules and policies.
But some of the accounts impersonating him used to enjoy higher follower counts than the journalist himself. Below is a list of all the handles Alt News reported to Twitter.
- ThePushpendra_/ – 4 lakh followers (Archive link, Archive link)
- PuspendraTweet – 2.5 lakh (Archive link)
- Pushpendrakuls0 – 84,000 followers (Archive link)
- PushpenderKL – 17,000 followers (Archive link)
- mArmysupporter – 7,000 followers (Archive link)
- ThePushpendra93 – 37,000 followers (Archive link)
- The_____Analyst – 62 हज़ार फ़ॉलोवर्स (आर्काइव लिंक)
- Real_Pushpender– 5,000 followers (Archive link)
1. Followers of the @ThePushpendra_/ handle included verified handles belonging to journalists and politicians alike, even though Kulshrestha himself tweeted on May 31 that the handle is fake.
One more Fake account pic.twitter.com/pGORMgXnln
— Pushpendra Kulshrestha (@Pushpendraamu) May 31, 2021
Every so often, the account would make communal and misleading posts. Below are nine instances when the account was found sharing misinformation.
- Shared a photo of Vadodara’s Baps Temple as a COVID-19 ward in Mumbai
- Gave a communal spin to an assault incident at a Dargah in Uttarakhand
- Falsely claimed The Wire lost its defamation case against Jay Shah and offered an apology
- Shared an image of Muslim women in farmer protests with a communal claim
- Suggested India was offering COVID-19 vaccines for free compared to US, UK
- Amplified an old picture with the false claim of farmers demonstrating against the revocation of Article 370 during farmer protests
- Promoted a video of ballot stuffing in Russia shared as the rigging of US presidential elections
- Falsely claimed that a Bihar SP working on the Sushant Singh case was appointed by the CBI
- Shared a fake statement attributed to Kapil Sibal: “Will commit suicide when Ram Mandir construction begins”
Screenshots of all these false claims made by the handle @ThePushpendra_/ are below.
2. @PuspendraTweet was also followed by many senior politicians including Sarojini Agarwal, Manish Singh, Gajendra Chauhan, Surendra Poonia, Arun Yadav, etc. Pushpendra Kulshrestha had clarified in a March tweet that this handle was fake.
Another fake account pic.twitter.com/OfBQ7IRYqw
— Pushpendra Kulshrestha (@Pushpendraamu) March 6, 2021
The username of this handle used to be ‘@RanjanGogoii’ and was later changed to ‘@PuspendraTweet’. A screenshot of a tweet posted by the handle @RanjanGogoii went viral recently.
Several people were circulating it as a tweet posted by former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. You can read our fact-check investigation of this post here.
Apart from this, @PuspendraTweet claimed that “Mamata Banerjee imposed a ban on 125 RSS schools in Bengal” following the May legislative elections held in the state.
West Bengal government had closed these schools in 2018 claiming they were flouting norms. You can find our detailed report on the incident here.
Alt News has caught REAL___HINDUVT circulating misinformation twice.
- Amplified a false message claiming Himalaya founder funds terrorists
- Circulated an old video of an SP leader as Himalaya founder saying ‘We’re Muslims first, Indians later’
Apart from these, the remaining handles earlier highlighted in the article used to regularly share communal posts. Kulshrestha had posted several tweets warning his followers about fake accounts impersonating him. In February 2020, he tweeted that people were sharing misleading posts in his name. ThePrint had cited a parody handle of the journalist as a genuine tweet in a fact-check article recently. Twitter has suspended six of the most popular accounts after Alt News sent an email to the social media giant and reported each of the handles.