While researching a fake fatwa, I stumbled upon the dark alley of fake news industry

A twitter hashtag #ISupportRohitSardana trended for a long time on 27th March, Rohit Sardana being the star anchor of Zee News and a huge favourite of Modi supporters. Why the sudden support for Rohit? According to right-wing claims, 150 Fatwas were issued against Rohit Sardana in response to Rohit Sardana asking a Maulana for Allah’s proof of birth in his show. Many of the tweets in support of Rohit Sardana got 100s of retweets. Here’s a sample.

people-tweeting-i-support-rohit-sardana

As it turned out, there was no fatwa whatsoever and it was a complete hoax.

Thankyou all who were trending #ISupportRohitSardana ,but I ve no info about any such Fatwa issued. Please do not believe hoax stories.

So, where did this fake news regarding the fatwa originate? Multiple right-wing websites carried this fake news, some of them being logicalbharat.com, dainikbharat.org, hindutva.info, newspur.in, thelotpot.com etc.

The link to the sites that published this fake news that I could find are listed below.

At the time of writing, the dainikbharat.org link has been shared on Facebook 25,514 times, hindtuva.info 17,019 times, newspur.in 10109 times etc. The cumulative shares on Facebook for the aforementioned six sites is 52,208 at the time of writing. There might be a few more other right wing sites who have published this fake information. From Twitter trends to Facebook trends to these websites, lakhs of people have viewed this fake news. So, who among them published it first?

While dainikbharat.org cites hindutva.info link as its source in it article, the publish time on Hindutva.info is at 11:17 am on 26th March 2017. As opposed to that, the earliest share of the newspur.in link based on a search in Facebook is at 9:18 a.m on March 26. In all probabilities, this is the website where this fake news originated.

first post using newspur.in link

The next task was to find out who owns this website. Most operating systems provide a tool called ‘whois’ which is a command line tool which helps one determine the ownership of a website (domain). As it turns out, the owner of newspur.in, Subhash Chaudhary, owns atleast 2 other domains namely sanatansanskriti.org and dainikhindu.org and the whois output shown below establishes the same. (Ignore the info below in the image below if it seems too technical)

newspur-owner-owns-3-other-websites

A quick visit to sanatansanskriti.org shows that the two featured articles are “Did Ashwatthama release the first Nuclear Bomb?” and the other one being “Test Tube baby technique is not new, it has been referenced ages ago in Mahabharat”. Essentially, it is another fake site which peddles absolutely unscientific information in the name of Hindu mythology.

So, why does Subhash Chaudhary have to run these fake news/information portals? What is the inspiration? Apparently, it is the advertisement money that he gets out of his websites. We found the link to Subhash Chaudhary’s Facebook profile on his website newspur.in => https://www.facebook.com/aslisubhash. His profile says that he’s an active member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and VHP.

subhash chaudhary fake news website member rss bajrang dal

A recent post on his timeline with the status “feeling happy” shows his jubiliation at receving some Rs 16,000 from a company called Adnow via which advertisements are shown on his posts, with 80% of the page filled with advertisements.

advertisement money received by Subhash Chaudhary

An example of the advertisements that popup when a user is on the newspur.in site can be seen in the image below. A guy who runs a sites called “sanatansanskriti.org” doesn’t quite exactly use ‘sanskari’ advertisements on his website.

advertisements on newspur.in

So, for Rs 16,000 a month, this young boy is running a fake news/information industry which is pushing fake news to lakhs of people.

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