From Pandit Nehru to Nobel Laureate, Richard Thaler, no one was spared by the fake news industry this month to further its agenda. The obsession of right-wing groups with pro-Pakistan slogans was again in the limelight and three incidents which were reported all turned out to be fake. With each passing day, those eager to portray others as anti-national are turning out to be the real anti-national elements as they cause irreparable harm to the social fabric of the country.
Here is a round-up of the highlights of the month:
The highlight of the month was the collage of images circulated by BJP IT cell head, Amit Malviya to vilify Jawaharlal Nehru. Social media is full of derogatory statements and morphed pictures of Nehru circulated by BJP supporters. By tweeting this set of pictures of Nehru with women, Malviya made insinuations linking Hardik Patel’s alleged sex CD to Nehru’s DNA.
Malviya had egg on his face when it turned out that the women showing affection towards Nehru were his sister and niece. Despite widespread outrage, Malviya neither deleted nor apologized for his attempts to malign Nehru. You can read about the story behind the nine pictures in the Alt News article here.
Talking of Amit Malviya and his penchant for fake news, yet another misleading news circulated by him about the support of Demonetisation by Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler was busted by Thaler himself. Malviya had earlier cherry-picked one of Thaler’s tweets out of a conversation as evidence of his support for demonetisation.
A twitter user emailed Professor Thaler with a direct question about his views on demonetization. The Nobel Laureate didn’t mince his words in his response: “The concept was good as a move to a cashless society to impede corruption but the rollout was deeply flawed and the introduction of the Rs 2000 note makes the motivation for the entire exercise puzzling.”
Thaler also retweeted his response but that was not a deterrent for Malviya. Two days after the Alt News article, Malviya was once again found to be using Thaler’s name to support demonetization. Ah well! Let us move on, some people will never learn.
This migration towards a more digital and less-cash economy is what Richard Thaler, the Nobel Prize winner for Economics in 2017, pointed to when he endorsed demonetisation and called it the ‘nudge theory’.. https://t.co/X9zsmNOVyz
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) November 20, 2017
The controversy over the movie Padmavati dominated much of the headlines during the month. BJP spokesperson Sanju Verma saw in this an opportunity to pass off those making violent threats as members of Congress / SP / AAP.
Sanju Verma’s claims were busted by an Alt News article that revealed the truth behind the political affiliation of those threatening violence. Verma did not take well to be corrected and went on a rant against those who pointed out the factual errors in her tweet to her. What about this and what about that!
.@abhisar_sharma, who was in news a while back for reported #TaxChori claims @AltNews tore into my claims:)@AltNews news founded by Prathik Sinha,son of Mukul Sinha,rabid Modi/BJP hater,was caught faking stories about Gujarat!This Sharma&this Sinha,a case of #ChorChorMausereBhai? https://t.co/4zVMr31iMD
— Sanju Verma (@Sanju_Verma_) November 20, 2017
.@AdityaMenon22 You were exposed for stoking communal tension in Kashmir,by using fake pics dating back to 2012 from Syria. You scurried for cover.Stop lecturing me,though an out of work 'journo' who is trying hard to make ends meet,has my sympathies:)Muting you.#DiscreditedHack https://t.co/aGR2b8d4Xx
— Sanju Verma (@Sanju_Verma_) November 20, 2017
In November we saw yet another instance of a Government department using pictures from abroad to represent its achievements. This time it was the Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways who used a picture of Gardiner expressway from Toronto, Canada on its Parivahan website. Yet another picture on website was actually of Kyle Canyon Road in Nevada, US.
The images were deleted soon after the Alt news article on the topic. This is not the first time that something like this has happened. Earlier this year the Spain-Morocco border was passed off as lighting along the India border. With India having so much to showcase, we wonder why time and again Government of India is caught using pictures from another country.
Using fake videos to portray the minority community as anti-national has now become a stale trick. It was no surprise therefore that the video circulated as that of Indian Muslims burning National flag and raising Pakistan Zindabad slogans in Punjab turned out to be fake.
In reality, neither was the National flag burnt, nor did anyone raise “Haay Haay Bharat” or “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans, nor was the mob comprised of Muslims. The only slogans that could be heard in the video were “Atankwaad Haay Haay”. It turned that the video from June was of Right-wing leader Sudhir Kumar Suri, who burnt effigy of slain militant preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale on 33rd anniversary of Operation Bluestar. You can read more about this story here.
Slogans in support of Hafiz Saeed in Uttar Pradesh? This too turned out to be fake news reported by multiple media outlets including Times of India. Alt News contacted SP of Lakhimpur, who stated that the allegations are false.
Barely a day after the fake news regarding the Lakhimpur incident, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala and Jansatta ran a story which claimed that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans were raised at an AIMIM rally in Ghaziabad, UP. Alt News spoke to the SHO of the Sahibabad division, Ghaziabad who said no such slogans were raised at the rally. Further investigation revealed that a slogan of ‘Haji Zeeshan Zindabad’ was deliberately misconstrued as ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ by antinational elements.
CPM cyber warriors were accused of bombarding former Australian cricketer Tom Moody’s Facebook page with obscenities, confusing him with Moody’s, the international credit rating agency. Many right-wing accounts took the stories in Times of India and The News Minute as a cue to mock Kerala and belittle its literacy ranking. The tables turned when it was discovered by alert social media users that the profiles abusing Tom Moody were actually RSS supporters impersonating CPM cadres.
The front page of Times of India Kochi edition carried an article on this issue with an abusive comment of a certain Govind Madhav who they portrayed as a CPM troll. The newspaper clearly failed to do its research. Madhav’s Facebook Timeline was found to be full of pro RSS propaganda including a comment “Commies are abusing Tom Moody mistaking him for the rating agency.” There was no retraction or apology from Times of India for this blatant anti-CPM propaganda.
An anlaysis by Boom FactCheck of the first 125 comments to Tom Moody’s post also revealed that there was indeed no organized large scale trolling as claimed in the news articles.
An off-beat story about the detention of donkeys in a district jail in Uttar Pradesh caused much hullabaloo for two days. The harmless story that led to quite a few laughs on social media turned sour when multiple media outlets started mocking UP Police for the arrests. In their eagerness to break the story, the point that everyone missed was that UP Police and UP Prisons are two separate departments under Home Ministry and UP police had nothing to do with the incident. UP police had a tough time correcting everyone who tagged them on the story. NDTV who was neither the first one to break the story, nor the first one to be corrected ended up getting blamed for it because of their sharp reaction when UP Police clarified the facts to them.
We saw an RTI reply stating that no MoU was signed between India and Japan for the Bullet train project, during the recent visit of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan in going viral. Many including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Gaurav Pandhi and Shakeel Ahmad alleged that the news of MoU signed was spread to gain the votes from Gujarat election.
Is it true ? RTI reply says, no MoU or Agreement with Japan on Bullet Train . PM Modi can do anything to win Gujarat ? pic.twitter.com/Zmm0KxRu6o
— Shakeel Ahmad (@Ahmad_Shakeel) November 17, 2017
It is true that India and Japan did not sign an MoU on 14th September, 2017. This was because the MoU was already signed in 2015. SM Hoax Slayer shared a PIB release from 2015 that stated that an MoU was signed on the 12th of December 2015 between India and Japan on cooperation and assistance in the Project.
Needless to say, none of those who played an active role in disseminating fake news during the month felt it was their responsibility to own up, retract or apologize for it. With circulation of fake news reaching epic proportions in the run up to the Gujarat elections, social media users need to be more alert than ever before about the possibility that not everything they come across on social media may be true.
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