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BOOM Research

August Misinformation Dominated By Highs of Chandrayaan - 3 and Lows Of Nuh Communal Outbreak

By - Debraj Sarkar | 8 Sep 2023 12:59 PM GMT

As we entered August, the eruption of communal violence at Nuh, Haryana, saw a fresh round of claims flood the internet and social media. The Chandrayaan - 3 landing sparked huge celebrations across the country which also led to a surge in false claims.  

Of the 14 false claims related to the Haryana violence, we categorised 8 as Islamophobic and the rest as either Sensationalist or as Political Smears. Overall, we addressed 23 Islamophobic claims in the month. 

Claims related to the ongoing Manipur crisis continued to go viral. They were, however, lesser in frequency. The claims promoted smears against political stakeholders. 

BOOM published a total of 94 unique fact-checks, in English, Hindi, and Bangla. Claims we categorise as Alarmist, Political, and Communal accounted for 20%, 21%, and 21% of all fact-checks respectively.

Scripted content, which we define as any claim that promotes dramatised or animated content accounted for 13% of all claims. Alarmist content (20% of claims) included topics like Haryana communal violence and Jadavpur University (JU) student death. 

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Theme Assessment 


Chandrayaan - 3

This is the latest (third) project in the multi-part lunar exploration missions developed by ISRO. Some trends that we observed - 

  • Claims were predominantly positive in sentiment. Out of 14 claims, only 2 were negative and one was neutral.
  • 50% of claims peddled animated content and AI-generated imagery as the latest visuals from space.
  • 21% of claims passed off visuals from other expeditions as LIVE footage. 
  • 86% of claims were sensationalist in purported intent. 

Below are a couple of examples of such claims - 


Old visuals originally taken by NASA's Perseverence rover on the surface of Mars were passed off as footage of the Pragyan rover of Chandrayaan. Learn more about BOOM's fact-check here.  



 

Visuals of earth from the surface of the moon went viral. BOOM found these images to be AI-generated. 

 

Haryana Communal Clashes

Rumours that Monu Manesar, a Gau Rakshak who is accused of killing two Muslim men, would be part of the annual Brajmandal Yatra passing through the Muslim-majority district of Nuh took a violent turn. False claims soon followed. Some trends - 

  • 57% of claims were Islamophobic. 
  • Top targets - Muslims (50%), BJP and it's leaders (29%), Hindus (7%) etc. 
  • 64% of claims promoted communal disharmony, 29% were political smears, and the rest (7%) promoted sensationalism. 

Here are examples of such claims - 


A video of a Muslim man running away from a mob in Dehradun, Uttarakhand went viral as evidence of violence in Haryana. The state machinery was incriminated for planning this violence. BOOM fact-checked the real context for the visuals. 




 

The communal violence at Nuh spilled over to parts of Gurugram as well. A video to the right went viral showing a Hindu youth being dragged away by a Muslim mob went viral. BOOM's fact-check proved the incident to be from MP where the youth was beaten up for harassing women. 

 

Manipur Clashes

Misinformation about Manipur and its inhabitants continued to spread across the internet iand on social media in August.  

  • Targets - 50% BJP leaders, 25% Meiteis, and 25% opposition leaders and parties.
  • 62% of claims promoted smears against political stakeholders. 

Here are a few examples - 


An India Today edition covering the crisis of Manipur with PM Modi's face in the centre went viral. BOOM found the image to be manipulated, as the Prime Minister's face was morphed in place of Manipur's CM N. Biren Singh in the original. 




 

A video depicting women and children relocating by climbing mountains has gone viral linking it to Manipur, implying that this is how Kukis came to Manipur from neighbouring Myanmar. BOOM fact-checked the video to be of a nomadic family in Iran. 

 

Islamophobia

Other than the overlap between Islamophobic claims and falsities revolving Nuh communal outbreak, BOOM fact-checked a series of generic claims promoting vilification of the community. 

  • 35% of claims were tied to the Nuh violence
  • 9% of claims were dramatised videos taken out-of-context while 4% of claims were tied to the release of Gadar 2. 

Here are some examples - 


A video showing a brawl breaking out in a cinema hall premiering Gadar 2 went viral with the claim that it happened after a Muslim shouted 'Pakistan Zindabad'. BOOM found the incident to not have any communal angle whatsoever. 




 

The other claim is of a Muslim youth donning a burqa who entered women's lavatory to take pictures of them. BOOM fact-checked the incident to show that the accused youth is actually a Hindu. 

 

Type and Outcome-Effects of False Claims


 We classified all claims according to the typology of false information and their purported impact. 

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Some general observations - 

  • 91% of Misleading claims are negative in sentiment; accounting for 34% of negative false information overall. 
  • False Contexts, False Connections (clickbait), and Spoofs (parody/hoax/trickery) have proportionately more positive claims than negative. 
  • 79% of Misleading claims target Muslims. Spoofs, False Contexts, and False Connections targeted Chandrayaan-3 the most. 

Misleading Content

A misleading claim is one that is incriminating in nature. Such claims take things out-of-context to frame individuals or organisations not originally present. Examples - 


A video of a man mutilating his fingers went viral. According to the claim, the man was venting out his frustrations with Congress in Tamil Nadu. BOOM found out that the man did so frustrated with PM Modi and Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde instead due to police inaction over his relatives' suicide. 




 

This video claimed to show the TMC government of West Bengal and one government to be corrupt. BOOM found the video to originally depict an incident in Karnataka. 

 

Let us go over the trends we observed in outcome-effects of false claims. 

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Some general observations - 

  • Misleading content is responsible for 85% of claims promoting Demographic Anxiety and 40% of Smear Campaigns. 
  • Manipulated content is used in 27% of Smear Campaigns. 
  • 67% of claims promoting Demographic Anxiety targeted Muslims. 27% of Sensationalist claims targeted Chandrayaan - 3. 10% of Smear Campaigns targeted Rahul Gandhi. 

Let us go over some of these sensationalist claims - 


An AI-generated image depicting Amitabh Bachchan playing Rabindranath Tagore in an upcoming film went viral. Read our fact-check about the image here. 





 

An animated clip of an unmanned blue moon lander went viral as footage of Chandrayaan - 3's Vikram lander. Read here about how BOOM found the original clip to be made by an American aerospace and defense company Blue Origin. 

 

Medium of Deception

More than images and texts, videos accounted for the bulk of false claims.  

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  • 85% of communal claims, 68% fo Alarmist claims, and 58% of Scripted Content were peddled via videos. 
  • Both Images and Videos contributed equally to the spread of political misinformation (45% each). 
  • Overall, videos accounted for 66% of false information, followed by Images (30%), and Texts (4%). 
  • Videos contributed to - 89% of Demographic Anxiety, 59% of Fake Sensationalism, and 53% of Smear Campaign. 


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