March was a busy month for the fake news industry with fake quotes circulating by the dozen, communally provocative content that went viral on social media and hilarious bloopers by mainstream media. The biggest news of the month with regard to fake news was the arrest of the founder of PostCard News after the portal shared communally provocative information that turned out to be fake. Here is a look at the fake news that populated the online space in the month of March.

1. PostCard News posts fake news on Jain monk attacked by Muslim youth

Very sad news, yesterday in Karantaka Jain muni attacked by muslim youth …. No one is safe in Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka.” With these words, PostCard News posted a picture which claimed that a Jain sage had been attacked by Muslim youth in the state.

This communally provocative information was shared by several serial peddlers of fake news including Mahesh Vikram Hegde who is the founder of PostCard News. Hegde was arrested by Karnataka police after Alt News’ report established that the monk had been injured in a road accident.

2. Aaj Tak, Republic TV misreport Delhi HC verdict on AAP MLAs

The Breaking News syndrome which has afflicted television news channels often ends up in embarrassment for these channels, as in their rush to be the first to break the news, accuracy goes for a toss. The Delhi High Court which was hearing the case of dismissal of AAP MLAs over the office-of-profit controversy ruled in favour of the MLAs and set aside their dismissal. However, Republic TV and Aaj Tak reported exactly the opposite.

For Aaj Tak, this was not the only blooper of the day.

3. Aaj Tak, ABP misreport Jharkhand Rajya Sabha results

Hindi news channels Aaj Tak and ABP news falsely reported that BJP had won both seats in the Rajya Sabha elections from Jharkhand.

Both the Congress and BJP had won one seat each in the polls to the two seats to the upper house from Jharkhand.

4. Fake news claims Narendra Modi is 2nd most corrupt PM in the world

A list was circulating on social media according to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is placed second. This list is a list of the most corrupt Prime Ministers in the world. It is topped by Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif. Vladimir Putin of Russia ranks third according to this list.

This is absolutely false information, and the list is completely fake. The website FoxNewsPoint which posted this list along with other lists such as ‘most corrupt political families in the world’ and ‘most corrupt political parties in the world’ has been posting such fake news for quite some time now. There is no basis to the information put out by this website, and these lists are used as tools of political propaganda by supporters and opponents of various parties.

5. Fake Facebook profile of NCC cadet interviewed by ANI viral on social media

After ANI reported on an NCC cadet’s statement in response to what Rahul Gandhi said at an interaction in Mysuru, soon enough, information started circulating on social media that this Sanjana Singh who responded to Gandhi is a member of the ABVP, the student organisation of the sangh parivar.

Alt News found the Facebook profile of the individual whose screenshot was being circulated as that of NCC cadet Sanjana Singh. We compared the photograph of the NCC cadet interviewed by ANI and the pictures of the person in that profile and found that the profile claimed to belong to the NCC cadet interviewed by ANI is actually the profile of some other person by the same name.

6. Fake picture of Stephen Hawking at a Vietnam war protest goes viral

Following the death of Professor Stephen Hawking, a photograph began to circulate widely on social media, claiming that the man in the picture with the canes is Stephen Hawking, who was present at this demonstration against the Vietnam war at Grosvenor square in London in 1968.

The young man in the photograph with the canes is not Stephen Hawking. This was confirmed by Pakistani writer and political activist Tariq Ali who is in the photograph that was taken in London in 1968. Actress Vanessa Redgrave who was a strong opponent of the Vietnam war too can be seen in this photo. Ali clarified this on his Facebook profile.

7. Right-wing spreads fake news about ‘Commies’ desecrating Rajiv Gandhi statue in Tripura

Several members of the right-wing ecosystem on social media spread the information that Communists under the Left Govt in Tripura had desecrated a statue of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. This came immediately after a statue of Lenin was pulled down in Tripura following the defeat of the CPI(M) in the assembly elections.

The image was not of Tripura but Andhra Pradesh and the year was not 2008 but 2013. Rajiv Gandhi’s statue was pulled down following widespread protests in the state in 2013 following the announcement of the bifurcation of the state and creation of Telangana.

8. Pakistani child artist claimed to be son of slain Indian Army officer

Faux patriotism was sought to be evoked when a video of a child artist singing was claimed to be the son of an Indian Army officer who had been killed in an operation against militants. This video was viewed by millions and shared more than 300,000 times from one Facebook page alone.

A Song By Pakistani Boy We Really Appreciate your song..

A Song By Pakistani Boy We Really Appreciate your song..

Posted by Indian Army – Service Before Self on Tuesday, January 2, 2018

However, it turned out that the child is not the son of an Indian Army officer. In fact, he is not even Indian but a Pakistani child artist who had sung the song as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the terror attack on the Army public school in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2014. The caption accompanying the video was later corrected.

9. Fake picture of juvenile convict in Nirbhaya case circulates on social media and WhatsApp

Social media was replete with a message that the juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2013 has ‘disappeared’, and was working in some hotel in southern India. Along with this message was a photograph of a boy claimed to be the juvenile who had gone missing.

This message was viral on WhatsApp as well as social media platforms. However, this photograph is NOT of the juvenile convict, as established by Alt News in this report. The photograph of this person was taken from a Twitter account @anehabheti with the name Mohammed Afroz. This account does not belong to the said juvenile convict.

10. Old video of independent U.P candidate circulates as ‘new’ and ‘corrupt’ RJD MP

“Statement of new elected RJD M P from Bihar. Hats up he openly admits how MP & MLA are making money. Long live RJD”. Along with this message is a video of a political candidate who is saying that he has entered politics to make money. According to posts that are viral across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and also on WhatsApp, this video is of the recently elected RJD MP from Bihar who won in the just-concluded bypoll in the state.

Except that it is not. The video is not from Bihar but from U.P. The candidate is not from RJD but an independent and the year is not 2018 but 2017.

11. Times of India publishes fake story on college circular about Priya Prakash Varrier

“Wink like Priya Varrier and you will be debarred, Coimbatore college tells students!” This was the headline of an article published by the English language daily Times of India on March 18, which was later withdrawn. According to the report, VLB Janakiammal College in Coimbatore, TN has issued a circular which says that girls who are found winking like actress Priya Varrier will be debarred for one year.

The circular was fake. It was a photoshopped image that was circulated on social media and picked up by a mainstream publication like Times of India without a basic verification. The story was later deleted from the ToI website.

12. Pak channels spread fake news about solar panels vandalised due to BJP MP’s statement

“Do you have any idea what they are doing? Ashok Saxena, Indian Parliament Member (BJP) said if people use solar energy, the Sun God will get angry…Now BJP Sanghis started destroying solar panels!!! A video is circulating on social media with this accompanying text, showing a group of people destroying solar panels.

Alt News ran a fact check and found that the origin of this information was most likely from Pakistan as this is where it had first emerged. NewsOne, a Pakistani news channel reported this fake news which was then picked up by netizens. The video is from the state of Maharashtra.

13. Fake quote menace goes too far; Hardik Pandya booked for tweet from spoof account

A special SC/ST court in Jodhpur, Rajasthan directed the police to file an FIR against cricketer Hardik Pandya after a complaint was filed against him alleging that he had made derogatory remarks about B R Ambedkar. The complainant had alleged that Pandya had made a casteist remark and had hurt the sentiments of a community, for which he must be prosecuted.

This tweet was from a parody account and not by the cricketer, whose official Twitter handle is @hardikpandya7. March 2018 onward, Alt News has chronicled fake news that flood social media on a daily basis in an attempt to stall their spread and bring to notice the mischief being perpetrated through the use of such false statements ascribed to celebrities.

This month saw a huge spike in fake quotes ascribed to celebrities. Alt News would like to caution readers to do a simple Google search if they come across dubious quotes attributed to public figures. Alt News will continue to keep a watch on fake news, misleading information and half truths, and bring you the latest updates.

About the Author

Arjun Sidharth is a writer with Alt News. He has previously worked in the television news industry, where he managed news bulletins and breaking news scenarios, apart from scripting numerous prime time television stories. He has also been actively involved with various freelance projects. Sidharth has studied economics, political science, international relations and journalism. He has a keen interest in books, movies, music, sports, politics, foreign policy, history and economics. His hobbies include reading, watching movies and indoor gaming.