The final month of the year was no different when it came to proliferation of fake news. Here is a quick wrap of all the fake stories that did the rounds in December.
1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ride on a seaplane from Ahmedabad to Mehsana was touted as the first ever seaplane to have flown in India. This claim was made by PM Modi’s personal website www.narendramodi.in and reiterated by BJP functionaries and mainstream media houses. However, the claim fell flat on its face when it emerged that seaplanes had been first deployed by Jal Hans in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in 2010.
2. Close on the heels of India’s first seaplane came India’s first metro- the Delhi metro, as claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech. PM Modi claimed that former PM Vajpayee was a passenger on the nation’s first metro service in 2002. However, the first metro service in India was started in Kolkata in the year 1984.
3. Controversy erupted over Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Somnath temple in Gujarat on the eve of the assembly election when it was claimed that he had signed the register meant for non-Hindus for entry to the temple. Originally published by a journalist from Zee Gujarat, the ‘news’ was the top story for mainstream media. It later emerged that the entry which became the hot topic for discussion was actually made by someone else and was misrepresented to make it seem as if Rahul Gandhi had signed it. The original entry was made in the regular temple register.
4. At the beginning of the month, Times Now carried a story on prime time wherein they showed how cattle were being ‘tortured’. The hashtag for the story was #CowSlaughterCruelty. Not only was there no video of cows being slaughtered, but one of the videos that was passed off as animal cruelty is actually a veterinarian procedure for treating a condition in pregnant cattle known as uterine torsion.
5. Shobha Karandlaje, BJP MP from Udupi-Chickmagalur, alleged that Paresh Mesta who was found dead in a lake in Honnavar town in Uttara Kannada district of the state was brutally tortured and killed by ‘jihadi elements’. This was reiterated by India Today in a tweet. The details of the forensic report released by Karnataka police refuted these claims, saying no torture had taken place. In another instance, Karandlaje claimed that ‘jihadis’ tried to rape and murder a Hindu girl in Honnavar. This too turned out to be fake as the police clarified that no such incident had taken place. Karandlaje was subsequently booked for promoting enmity between groups.
Can any civilised society accept the brutality meted out on Paresh Mesta?Worse of all is the stony silence from CM @siddaramaiah.Is it because the victim is a Hindu
— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) December 10, 2017
6. A photograph that was widely circulated on social media showed a man being dragged with his feet tied to a bike. The caption accompanying the photo said, ‘This is what happened to a Hindu man who raised the slogan of Jai Shri Ram in Pakistan. Share this post so much that each Hindu receives it’. However, the image was not from Pakistan but from Palestine and was shot in 2012.
7. Tejashwi Yadav, RJD leader and son of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad posted this letter on twitter which was attributed to an Election Commission official. The letter alleged large scale EVM tampering with the help of telecom companies. The letter turned out to be fake as the State Election Commission clarified that it had not received any such letter and there was no EC official by the name mentioned in the letter.
Doing rounds on whatsapp.. Authenticity you verify pic.twitter.com/2fjH1Yejou
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) December 17, 2017
8. BJP MP Kirron Kher posted a photograph on her twitter account of soldiers braving extremely cold weather, saying it was a photo of Indian army soldiers posted in Siachen. The photograph in question which has been viral on social media for a long time is originally of Russian army soldiers.
— Kirron Kher (@KirronKherBJP) December 17, 2017
9. A video of an injured soldier giving instructions to his unit till his last breath became viral on social media. Among those who shared the video were former Army chief General VK Singh and AAP leader Alka Lamba, although General Singh did not mention the injured soldier as Major Prafulla. Major Prafulla was martyred while preventing infiltration in the Keri sector of J&K earlier in the month. However, the video was not of Major Prafulla but of an Assistant Commandant of CRPF and was shot in 2009.
10. Ratan Sharda, RSS thinker and ideologue and many others tweeted a message which claimed that Judge OP Saini who delivered the verdict on the 2G scam acquitting A Raja and Kanimozhi is the father of Angad Saini, the youngest MLA of Punjab and a member of the Congress party. The information turned out to be false as the two are not related. Sharda subsequently deleted his tweet.
11. A video that was widely circulated on social media claimed that SP leader Kamal Akhtar was roughed up by UP police as he tried to incite communal violence. It turned out that the video in question was of 2011 and the person being beaten up was not Kamal Akhtar. The video was of a protest by SP workers against the then BSP govt in the state. This same clip has been circulating on social media with different captions.
2017 was yet another year which saw the proliferation of fake news that emanated not only from social media but also from mainstream media. With the Gujarat assembly election taking place in December, there were attempts to spread fake news with the intention of polarising the electorate. Also, tall claims were made with regard to developmental projects that were inaugurated in the run up to the polls. December was thus an eventful month for fake news peddlers and fake news busters alike.