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BOOM Research

Monthly Disinfo Tracker: False Claims In September Dominated By G20, India–Canada Row

Of the 93 fact-checks that were published in September, majority of the claims were Political in nature

By - Nidhi Jacob | 10 Oct 2023 11:38 AM GMT

Of all the fact-checks published by BOOM in September, the G20 Summit 2023, the India-Canada diplomatic standoff and the Morocco earthquake were the most popular topics that generated false and misleading claims, accounting for 11%, 5.3% and 4.3%, respectively.

Of the 93 fact-checks that were published in September in English, Hindi and Bangla, 31.18% of the claims were Political in nature. This was followed by Communal (13%) and Alarmist (13%) claims.

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Claims that were political (31.18%) in nature mostly included topics like the 2023 G20 Summit and the Indo-Canadian diplomatic row.

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Theme Assessment

G20 Summit 2023

The eighteenth G20 or Group of Twenty was held in New Delhi, India, between September 9 and September 10, 2023. Following the event, BOOM analysed a string of claims between September 11 and 19.

Here are the trends that we observed:

  • The claims mainly targeted politicians of India and other countries such United States President Joe Biden, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi.

  • Claims in connection with the G20 Summit nearly saw positive and negative sentiments in equal measure. Of the ten claims, 5 contained negative sentiments, 4 positive and 1 neutral. Claims related to PM Modi and Joe Biden had positive sentiments whereas those related to Rahul Gandhi, Sheikh Hasina and others were negative.

For example, a false claim related to a Times Now interview of Deputy Leader serving on the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Asle Toje went viral on social media stating that Toje revealed how PM Modi was being considered as a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

BOOM found that the video was from March 2022 and the Times Now Report had grossly misquoted Toje. During the interview he had said, “ I hope every leader in every nation is inspired to do the work that is necessary to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” The statement did not mention considering Modi as a contender for the award.

  • 40% of the claims related to the Summit were misleading.

  • Videos were the most preferred medium of deception, accounting for 80% of the claims.

  • 50% of the claims promoted ‘Fake Sensationalism’ which is defined as “presenting information in a way that is intended to provoke/excite individuals and appeal to their emotions. BOOM refers to the existing typology provided by Claire Wardle of First Draft News. This was followed by Smear Campaigns which accounted for 40% of the claims. Smear Campaign is an “attempt at damaging the public image of individuals and organisations.”

    When it comes to smear campaigns, an old video of MP Rahul Gandhi talking about how Bharat Mata (Mother India) is an “unparliamentary word” went viral with a false claim that Gandhi had made the statement in September. This was after Reports about G20 dignitaries receiving invitations for the summit from the ‘President of Bharat’ instead of the usual ‘President of India’ led to speculations about the central government's plans to propose changing India’s name to Bharat permanently.

BOOM found that the clip had been shared out of context and that Gandhi made the statement in irony after parts of his speech in a Lok Sabha session were removed.

India-Canada Diplomatic Row

The India-Canada diplomatic stand-off escalated when the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, on September 18, stated that his government suspected the involvement of the Indian government in the killing of Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader Hardip Singh, on June 18, in British Columbia.

  • BOOM observed that 50% of the claims targeted the Canadian government. These claims were riddled with anti-Canada sentiments.

  • Both images and videos contributed equally to the spread of disinformation (50% each)

  • All claims were smear campaigns against political leaders in Canada and the Canadian government.

  • Misleading content accounted for 83.3% of the claims. For example, a video of a man speaking about banning the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Canada, amidst the diplomatic row went viral on social media. BOOM found out that the statement was made by the head of an independent non-governmental organisation which was not affiliated with the Canadian government.

  • News agency Asian News International (ANI) and other mainstream news outlets had misreported that Canada updated its travel advisory for India warning Canadian citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” and advised them against travelling to Jammu and Kashmir. However, Global Affairs Canada confirmed to BOOM that “no new risk information” was added to the India travel advisory page. 

  • Who were the top targets of false claims?

    Of the 93 claims, Muslims were targeted the most, accounting for 12% of the claims. Further, 82% of the false claims were communal in nature with 91% of islamophobic content being promoted via videos.

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82% of claims targeting Muslims had negative sentiments attached.

91% of the claims promoted Demographic Anxiety. This was followed by Fake Sensationalism, which accounted for 9.1%.

63.6% of the claims were misleading. For example, an old video from Agra in UP had resurfaced with a false communal claim that the police had apprehended 15 muslim boys with Hindu girls while conducting a raid at a hookah bar in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. However, a police official in Agra confirmed to BOOM that the communal claims in the video were not true.

Medium of deception

68% of false claims were shared via videos followed by images (26%) and text (6.45%).

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20.43% of Political claims, 11% of Communal claims and 8.6% of Scripted Content were peddled via videos.

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