The month of August saw the full range of misinformation and disinformation at play- fake quotations ascribed to public figures, photoshopped images targeting political leaders, misinformation with the objective of inciting communal sentiments and bloopers by mainstream media, among others.
COMMUNAL CAULDRON KEEPS SIMMERING
1. WhatsApp rumours of Rohingya Muslims on the prowl
In August, the rumours of child-abduction took a communal turn when messages began to circulate of a gang of Rohingya Muslims in Indore out to abduct children.
Over the last couple of months, more than 30 people lost their lives due to mob lynching over rumours of child-abduction gangs active across various regions. It has been observed that these rumours become localised when they circulate in a particular state.
2. March by Muslims demanding release of Mandsaur rape accused
The brutal rape of an 8-year old in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh in June 2018 was given a brazenly communal spin on social media. Thousands of users shared a message, according to which members of the Muslim community rallied on the streets of Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women.
The above image is photoshopped. While it is true that Muslim groups in Mandsaur had taken out a rally, it was in support of the victim and against the accused. The banners and placards in the original picture were replaced with these provocative messages seen in the above image and posted by a website called Indiaflare.
3. Karnataka school making students recite verses of the Quran
A video was viral on social media in which a kindergarten school teacher could be seen teaching students to recite verses from the Quran. It was alleged that this took place in Karnataka and was the outcome of Congress and JDS ruling the state.
The video circulated on social media was misleading. It turned out that it was merely one of a two-part video. The second video shows another teacher teaching the students shlokas or verses from the Bhagwad Gita. The exercise was conducted as rehearsal for a programme to be held in the school on independence day and included recitation of verses from the Gita, Quran and the Bible.
4. Muslims responsible for 95% rapes in India in 2016
NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women reason: In India, 95% of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84734 rape cases, 81000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96% of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in their population, number of rapes will also increase -translation. This message was widely circulated in the beginning of July. Among those who shared it was Mahesh Vikram Hegde, founder of the fake news website Postcard News.
In an official statement given to Alt News regarding the claim, NCRB clarified, “It is totally wrong data & complete misrepresentation of facts as NCRB does not collect data on the religion of accused & victims. It is malicious propaganda, which needs to be countered by the law-abiding citizens. Concerned officials have been advised to initiate legal action.”
5. “280 orphan minor girls made pregnant in Teresa missionary”
Lawyer Prashant Patel Umrao, who is notorious for repeatedly spreading misinformation, tweeted that Umrao tweeted that 280 “minor orphan girls” were impregnated in “Teresa missionary orphanage” and their babies trafficked abroad. His claim was retweeted more than 3,000 times and shared widely on Facebook as well.
Alt News contacted Jharkhand ADGP R.K. Mallick who told us that Patel’s claim is completely false. “The charity gives shelter to unwed mothers. At the time of delivery, they are taken by the nuns to the hospitals. It’s not as if children are born in the MoC homes. Post delivery, the babies are given to different child care centres as their mothers don’t want the responsibility and MoC also cannot take care of so many newborns.”
PHOTOSHOP AMBUSH ON POLITICAL LEADERS
1. Photoshopped image of Hitler juxtaposed with photo of PM Modi
Two photographs which showed uncanny similarity between two political leaders were juxtaposed. One was of PM Narendra Modi and the other was of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt shared this image on his Twitter and Facebook profile, which was subsequently shared widely.
Spot the difference. pic.twitter.com/yI1fyIOdos
— Sanjiv Bhatt (IPS) (@sanjivbhatt) July 25, 2018
A reverse image search on Google revealed that Hitler’s image used in the post is photoshopped. In the original image, he is not holding the child’s ears but resting his hands on her shoulders. An article in The Sun has published the original image which was apparently clicked to portray the Nazi leader as “personal friend and guardian of the German youth”.
2. PM Modi surrounded by world leaders
A Facebook page Jay Modiraj posted a photograph which showed a seated PM Modi surrounded by political leaders of other countries. It was posted on July 18 and was shared over 5,500 times.
Friends जरा इस फोटो को गौर से देखिये, भारत के इतिहास में क्या यह दृश्य देखने को आपकी आँखें तरस गई होंगी,
The original image was taken by a photographer, Kayhan Ozer for Getty Images, an American stock photo agency. The authentic image was captioned, “President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) talks with US President Donald Trump (L), accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu (2nd R), during a session within the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 07, 2017.”
3. Photo of Rahul Gandhi with portrait of Aurangzeb in background
An image of Congress President Rahul Gandhi was shared widely by pro-BJP groups on social media. The image showed a portrait of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the background. It was shared thousands of times on Facebook.
इन देशभक्तों ने यह कौन से देश भक्त की तस्वीर लगा रखी है
Despite the absurdness of the photograph, it was widely believed to be true. Needless to say, the image was photoshopped. The original photograph has the portrait of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the background.
4. Photoshopped image of O. Panneerselvam bowing before PM Modi
A photograph was shared widely on social media, which showed Tamil Nadu Deputy CM O.Panneerselvam folding his hands and bowing before Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This photo had also been posted by several Tamil websites.
This picture will break the hearts of the Bravehearts Tamilians who made the most protected guy in India too scared to drive.He had 2 fly on a chopper, break the wall of Madras IIT,when TN trended #gobackmodi .Then this happened. Tamilians & South Indians will be shocked #TNGovt pic.twitter.com/8xwJV0A6Sp
— Suby (@Subytweets) July 26, 2018
Alt News did a Google reverse image search and found an article published by NDTV on February 18, 2018, titled, ” ‘I’m Minister Because Of PM Modi’s Advice,’ Says O Panneerselvam.” The article contained a photograph with the same background, showing PM Modi and Panneerselvam seated across each other. It was taken by the Press Information Bureau(PIB), a nodal agency of the Government of India when the two met in December 2016.
5. Photoshopped image of Rahul Gandhi checking out photo of skimpily clad woman
A photograph of Congress President Rahul Gandhi checking out an images of a bikini clad woman on his mobile phone has been circulating on social media. A Facebook page, Yogi Sarkar which has more than 400,000 followers posted this photograph on July 30, 2018.
फ़ोटो कभी झूट नहीं बोलती… देख लो राहुल गांधी क्या कर रहा है।
In the original photograph, no mobile phone can be seen in Rahul Gandhi’s hand. The photograph was taken in November 2016 when the Congress President had arrived at a bank in New Delhi to exchange his old currency in the aftermath of the announcement of demonetisation on November 8, 2016. The original photograph has been posted on the website of Getty Images and shows Rahul Gandhi holding currency notes in his hand.
MISREPORTING BY MAINSTREAM MEDIA
1. CNBC-TV18 shares incorrect data on religious demographic composition in Assam
Following the news of the exclusion of 40 lakh people from the final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the state of Assam, CNBC-TV18 shared an infographic which showed how the population of the Muslim community had risen sharply in the state from 13.4% in 2001 to 34.22% in 2011 and the proportion of the Hindu population had concomitantly declined.
|Assam||Census 2001||Census 2011|
If we convert the above into percentages, in the 2001 census, the population of Hindus was 64.89% and not 80.5% as projected by CNBC – TV 18. This percentage stands at 61.47% in 2011. The percentage of Muslims in 2001 was 30.91% and not 13.4% as misrepresented by the channel. The percentage stands at 34.22% in 2011.
2. ANI misreports Uttarakhand Govt notification on use of choppers for rescue ops
On July 14, ANI published a report titled, “Uttarakhand: Passengers to be charged during rescue operations.” Affixed with the article was a notification issued by the state Civil Aviation Development Authority addressed to the District Magistrate of Pithoragarh. Based on this, ANI reported that “passengers would be charged availing helicopters during rescue operations at the time of disasters.” The report was also picked up by other news organisations.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat took to Twitter to refute ANI’s reportage. He said that in a government order dated July 4, clear directives were given to use the choppers for rescue at “no cost to evacuees.” This was a clear case of misreporting by ANI.
3. Sudarshan News spreads misinformation about decree against UP police by mosque
Sudarshan News published an article on its website on July 21, 2018 claiming that a decree had been passed by a mosque in UP against the police. This was also shared by Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of the channel.
शुरू हो गया वो सब कुछ जिसका डर था . #up की एक #मस्जिद से आया फरमान – “टुकड़े टुकड़े में काटना है @Uppolice वालों को”@baghpatpolice @dgpup @myogiadityanath @narendramodi@adgzonemeerut @HMOIndia #UPCM https://t.co/B2YBnlCpZ2
— Suresh Chavhanke STV (@SureshChavhanke) July 21, 2018
The article published by Sudarshan News was inflammatory in nature and gravely provocative in tone. Despite a clarification by the Baghpat police over the incident, the channel neither pulled down the article nor apologised. Instead, following the article by Alt News, Sudarshan News tried to brazen it out by blaming others.
FAKE QUOTE FACTORY NEVER SLEEPS
1. Congress spokesperson and daughter threatened over fake quote
A fake quote attributed to Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi supporting Mandsaur rapist Irfan was circulated on social media. The tweet has now been deleted, but not before spreading fake news and calling for the rape of Chaturvedi’s daughter. “Priyanka I want to rape your daughter. Send your daughter to me – translated,” was the tweet made out by @GirishK1605. The fake quote attributed to Chaturvedi claimed she had said, “Only one rape has been committed in Mandsaur. It is the right of Muslims to rape. Our party is with Irfan (the rapist) – translated.”
After the Mandsaur rape case was reported on, numerous fake quotes were attributed to Congress leaders on social media purportedly defending the rape accused. The person who tweeted the threat to Chaturvedi ironically had ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as his handle. Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted to Mumbai police who informed her that action has been initiated against this person. A disturbing trend has recently emerged wherein fake quotes are ascribed to persons who then receive death and rape threats on social media.
2. Article criticizing Gandhi family falsely credited to journalist Mark Tully
An article purportedly written by Mark Tully, senior journalist and former Bureau Chief of BBC, New Delhi circulated on social media. The article is titled “Post No Confidence Motion. The road ahead“. It criticized the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi, calling the recent No Confidence Motion introduced in the Lok Sabha a ‘debacle’. It pulled no punches, berating the Gandhi family and the Congress party.
Alt News found the same article shared by a Facebook user Sanjay Mehra on July 21, 2018, without an attribution to Mark Tully. Mehra claimed in the comments section that the article was written by him and not Mark Tully. In a conversation with Alt News, Tully confirmed that he had not written any such article.
3. Fake quote attributed to actress Shabana Azmi
A statement ascribed to actress Shabana Azmi was shared on social media according to which she had said that “India is not a good and great country because Muslims are not happy here” (translated). The quote was shared on many pro-BJP pages on Facebook and by individual users in large numbers.
THIS IS PURE LIES being circulated in my name . Santosh Bhartiya agar aapki sahi identity hai tto prove kariye ye maine kahah kaha hai. Jhoot ki buniyaad par apni dukaan chalaane wale sharm karo !!! pic.twitter.com/g6KB3o4Tcb
— Azmi Shabana (@AzmiShabana) July 13, 2018
Azmi took to Twitter to clarify she had never made such a statement. Alt News found that this quote attributed to Shabana Azmi has been circulating on social media for more than a year now.
There are numerous other instances of misinformation for the month of July, 2018 which do not fit the broad categorization outlined in this article. For example, social media was abuzz with the false claim that Rahul Gandhi’s speech in the Lok Sabha was viewed by a record 48 lakh people live. Similarly, there was another false claim shared widely on social media was about a new initiative for women’s safety by PM Modi. Actress Priyanka Chopra was targeted when an old picture from a movie shoot in which she has donned a burqa was shared with the claim that she wore it before meeting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The instances mentioned in this article are illustrative and not exhaustive, as the volume of misinformation and disinformation is staggering and is only expected to head north with the approaching election season.
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