“Wow! This is a new low! These jerks have gotten smart enough to write “fictional tweet” at the bottom to avoid legal trouble! #Trolls i obviously didn’t tweet this” Faye Dsouza of Mirror Now, tweeted in disbelief attaching a morphed tweet that was being circulated on social media in her name. The outrageous tweet portrayed Dsouza as justifying child trafficking by Christian missionaries and even though it carried a fine print of “fictional tweet”, many including a Facebook page titled Presstitutes circulated it believing it to be true. Where did this tweet come from? Let us find out.

The tweet was morphed and shared by a Facebook page that goes by the name Dark tweets from liberal basement. It is a newly created page with its first post on June 16th . The page has around 1700 followers. A quick look at the posts shows that the page was created for the sole purpose of circulating fake tweets. The targets are carefully picked. They are either liberal voices like Shehla Rashid, Ram Subramanian, Gurmehar Kaur, Sanjukta Basu, Umar Khalid and Pratik Sinha or political opponents of the ruling party like Mamata Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi Sitaram Yechury and Assaduddin Owaisi. Whereas Faye Dsouza is a new addition to the list, some of the others have been targeted multiple times.

The person behind the page is clearly projecting his/her own prejudices and insecurities using the name of another person. The admin is assigning imaginary motives to them and putting words that they have never said, in their mouth. A few examples of the posts below give a glimpse into the mindset and worldview of the administrator of the page.

The posts on the page, except the earliest ones carry an almost invisible fine print saying “fictional tweet”. Another post on the page explains that “contents of the page are purely fiction and no one should take it seriously”. By putting out this disclaimer, the admin of the page may be attempting to position the tweets as satire or humor but circulating a fake quote in someone’s name is no laughing matter. We have seen several instances in the recent past where fake quotes have led not just to online trolling but even rape and death threats. Ravish Kumar, Rana Ayyub, Barkha Dutt, and several others have been victims of hate campaigns that started with a fake quote attributed to them. More recently Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi and her daughter received rape threats because of one such fake quote.

Attributing fake quotes has become a common right-wing strategy against those holding different views. The Dark tweets from liberal basement Facebook page has taken it a step further by actually morphing tweets. This lame attempt at dark humor is damaging to the reputation of the targeted individuals. The administrator of the page cannot absolve himself/herself of the responsibility because most people will miss the fine print in the morphed tweets which is barely legible and will end up believing these tweets to be real.