Who passed off a Mexican stabbing video as one of RSS member getting killed in Kerala? Hindutva.info. Who spread the fake propaganda that Ravish Kumar’s sister has been suspended due to corruption charges? Hindutva.info. Who pushed the false rumour that there’s been a fatwa against Zee News’s Rohit Sardana? Hindutva.info. Who promoted a Bangladeshi video as a Hindu being killed by Muslims in West Bengal? Hindutva.info.
Hindutva.info is the mother hen of all fake websites. The reach they have is phenomenal. At the time of writing, Hindutva.info’s traffic rankings according to Alexa is 1,229 in India. As compared to that, thewire.in has a ranking of 1,885 in India. Alexa, an Amazon.com subsidiary, is a commercial web traffic data and analytics company.
While there are other suspect websites like postcard.news which are more popular than Hindutva.info in terms of actual volume of traffic, I personally consider Hindutva.info the most dangerous because the content that they serve is in Hindi which reaches the masses in villages and small towns. As is often the case with such websites, the identity of who owns the website is hidden. Hindutva.info’s ‘About Us‘ page reveals nothing about who runs the website. At Alt News, we recently did a detailed investigation of DainikBharat.org which is yet another popular fake news site and we revealed who runs the show. By the end of this post, we will not only know who runs Hindutva.info but we will also find out what is the secret sauce that is used to make Hindutva.info’s content go viral. Along the way, we will also explain the methodology that we used to investigate.
In case of DainikBharat.org, the WHOIS information which can potentially reveal name, address, phone number etc of the domain owner was public when we investigated the site. It helped us find the initial clue which was their phone number. However, in case of Hindutva.info, the WHOIS information (https://www.whois.com/whois/hindutva.info) is also well hidden using a paid service called ‘Domains By Proxy‘. The name, address, phone number etc, as seen in the image below, is that of the company ‘Domains by Proxy’, and not Hindutva.info. The only thing we know is that the domain itself was registered on 18th August, 2015.
Typically, with such websites, in their initial days of existence, they tend to reveal much more personal information than they do once they become popular. A service called Wayback Machine helps us see what the websites looked like at various points of time in the past. They take regular, automated screenshots of almost all websites on the internet. We look a September 11, 2015, snapshot of Hindutva.info on Wayback Machine (http://web.archive.org/web/20151109010752/http://hindutva.info:80/) which is just a month after the registration of the domain name.
Circled above are the names of two of the authors on the website. In the initial version of the website, these two authors namely Vishal Kashyap and Jindal were the most prolific, a fact which will be evident if you scroll through the Wayback Machine link. All the English content was written by Vishal Kashyap while all the Hindi content was written by Jindal. We ran some searches of Vishal Kashyap and hindutva.info on Google but there was no information available which would suggest that Vishal Kashyap was the owner of hindutva.info. We looked at Jindal next.
So, there we have it! There’s a Rajesh Jindal who claims himself to be the founder of Hindutva.info on Quora (https://www.quora.com/profile/Jindal-Rajesh) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajesh-jindal-2b623933/). Let me also briefly explain the ‘site:‘ operator used above. It is a feature offered by Google Search wherein if you wish to search a specific site, lets say you want to search only hindutva.info and no other site, then you can add “site:hindutva.info” to your search query. However, if you wish to filter out all the results coming from one particular site then you preface the ‘site:‘ operator with a minus sign => ‘-site:‘. In the search query above, I wanted to filter out all the content from hindutva.info website as it is much more likely that I would find personally identifiable information of Mr Jindal on websites other than hindutva.info. Hence, the search operator ‘-site:hindutva.info‘ has been employed. Google has documented their advanced search features here => http://bit.ly/1kktu5l.
But, who is Rajesh Jindal? We turn yet again to Google to see if we can find some more information about Rajesh Jindal. We run a search with the full name and the ‘-site:‘ operator that we used before. And…success! We now have Mr Rajesh Jindal on video! The video was found on a website called Blogscreed which Mr Jindal is a co-founder of.
So, now we have Rajesh Jindal on video boasting about his success as a blogger and how he makes tons of money. A Facebook event by Blog’s creed states that Rajesh Jindal makes more than 10 lakhs per month. What is the secret of his success? How did he make the business of fake news such a successful venture? To find that out, we need some more personal information about Rajesh Jindal, like a phone number or an email address, so that we can run some more searches. In Rajesh Jindal’s quora profile, he mentions another website which he has founded, hitpehit.com. We looked up the WHOIS information of hitepehit.com => https://www.whois.com/whois/hitpehit.com.
Unlike hindutva.info, the WHOIS information of hitpehit.com was not masked by a paid service. We now have Rajesh Jindal’s email address, phone number and address. If you look up the phone number on truecaller, truecaller shows that the phone number indeed belongs to Rajesh Jindal. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We next run a search using Rajesh Jindal’s email address with the “-site:hindtuva.info” operator.
The search results have the ‘About’ sections of two Facebook pages namely JaiHindustanKiSena and JanDHanYojnaModi. While JaiHindustanKiSena has a following of 2.8 million, JanDhanYojnaModi has a following of 460k. Both these pages are operated by Mr Rajesh Jindal. How do I know so? Because, firstly, all those who run Facebook pages would know that the ‘About’ section of a Facebook page is configured by the Administrator of the page. In both these pages, the email address of Mr Rajesh Jindal, which wasn’t very easy to find, is configured as contact email address in the About section. Additionally, the website on the ‘About Section’ is also configured as hindutva.info. Additionally, both these pages share identical links, all of which are from Hindutva.info. These links are shared at the exact same time on both the pages. What that means is that both the pages are being handled by a single individual, and it is easy enough to conclude that it is Mr Rajesh Jindal or his team who is handling these pages.
Are these the only pages that Mr Rajesh Jindal handles? No. In fact, the man has built an empire of Facebook pages. We searched google for all Facebook pages that have “hindutva.info” in its about section. We got the following list:
All the above Facebook pages put together have a direct reach of about 4.5 to 5 million. Each one of them share links from only two websites that is “hindutva.info” and “hitpehit.com”, both of which are owned by Mr Rajesh Jindal. Each one of them have either “hindutva.info” or “hitepehit.com” as the website in the About section of the page. The central idea is to pick certain famous individuals and make Facebook pages in their name. The only exception is the last Facebook page “Mandir Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Fans”. Here, religious posts are interspersed with links from hindtuva.ifo and hitpehit.com. The page has a following of close to 400k. A clever use of how to use religion to forward one’s blogging career based on fake news.
We also found that Rajesh Jindal uses his Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/Rajesh.Jindal007) to cross post across multiple Facebook groups that have huge membership. He himself is the founder of a group called “Rohit Sardana and Sudhir Chaudhary Fan Club” which has close to 600k Members.
The list of Facebook pages and groups that we’ve found might be far from complete. It is quite possible that Mr Rajesh Jindal runs a host of other Facebook pages and groups. This whole social media infrastructure that he’s created is used to drive huge amounts of traffic to his websites. He’s monetised his website using advertisements from three companies namely Revcontent, MGID and Google Adsense. At the top, middle and bottom of every post, you’ll find advertisements which help him mint money. The image below shows the sort of advertisements that appear at the bottom of Hindutva.info’s posts.
That’s the tale of Hindutva.info, a booming fake news site making tons of money with no one to regulate the fakery that is reaching millions of people.