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BOOM Research

Disinformation in July fuelled by clashes in Manipur and riots in France

Trends from 101 fact-checks in July

By - Debraj Sarkar | 4 Aug 2023 9:46 AM GMT

As we entered the month of July, ongoing ethno-religious violence in Manipur continue to escalate. Around the same time, France was witnessing widespread civil riots after the fatal shooting of a person of colour by the police in the Parisian suburbs. BOOM found these cases of violence to be the dominant topics of false claims in July, accounting for 23% and 18% of all our fact-checks.

Islamophobia continued its grip on false information in the country. BOOM found that the Muslim community was targeted in 28% of claims. A strong overlap was observed between the riots in France and Islamophobic claims. The false claims blamed Muslims for not integrating and spreading unrest and intolerance. Out of 23 claims tied to the riots, 11 were Islamophobic in nature. 

Another topic of false information was the extreme monsoon conditions across North India. These accounted for 6% of false claims. 

Spanning English, Hindi, and Bangla, BOOM published a total of 101 fact-checks, each concerning a unique false claim.

International claims came on top with 24% of claims, followed by claims we define as Alarmist and Communal (23% each). Political claims accounted for 18% of claims. The surge in international claims was due to the falsity surrounding the French riots, while alarmist claims saw growth due to claims concerning Manipur clashes. 

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France Riots

France's societal challenges lead to violent displays of civil disobedience when a youth was shot dead by law enforcement officers. It took an uglier turn when narrative(s) surrounding the riot blamed immigrants (in general) and Muslims (in particular) for allegedly not willing to adopt host country's values.  

  • Muslims have been blamed in 48% of the claims. 
  • False claims centered on perceived culpability and scale of devastation. 
  • Claims had the theme of societal collapse and had anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

Below are some examples - 


The first is an old graphic video showing blood-ridden bodies on a road was circulating with the communal claim that it was the aftermath of the riots where Muslims had their way with the locals. Our fact-check shows that the visuals are from a separate incident entirely.  



 

The second is an image showing protestors walking through charred remains in what appears to be Paris was shared as real footage of the riots. BOOM fact-checked the image as being AI-generated. 

 

Manipur Clashes 

Long-standing discontent between two ethnic groups over sharing resources and quotas lead to violent ethnic clashes. Some trends observed in false claims surrounding the ongoing situation in Manipur are - 

  • Targets of claims are diverse; ranging from political representatives to ethnic groups. 
  • 55% of the claims are smear campaigns against political stakeholders. Only 33% of the claims are divisive. 

Here are some examples of claims we fact-checked - 


The first video went viral claiming police detained and harmed Kuki civilians, implicating state machinery behind the ongoing clashes. BOOM investigated and found the visuals to be old and related to the state assembly elections during March 2022.  



 

The second is an old video of Akshay Kumar condemning attacks on women. This was taken out of context to peddle the claim that it was in response to the horrific July 19 video of two Kuki women being paraded naked. BOOM's fact-check showed the truth behind the video. 

 

Islamophobia 

Last month, Muslims were targeted in 28% of claims spanning generic cases of Islamophobia and the riots in France. 

Like the Balasore train accident, a communal spin was offered to the riots in France incriminating the community for harbouring malice against the majority populace. Some trends observed in our fact-checks - 

  • 48% of claims pertaining to the riots in France are Islamophobic.  
  • When it comes to generic claims, sub-themes include - Sai baba as muslim, sexual harassment, Eid celebrations, assault on Hindus, and Pakistan flag waving. 
  • Every claim targeting muslims is negative in sentiment . 

Below are a few examples - 


The first visuals are of a skyscraper on fire that was used to blame muslims for the total collapse of France. In reality, the video is of an incident from the UAE, as BOOM fact-checked



 

Next, we have visuals of reddish water (allegedly blood) inundating houses that was claimed to be from Delhi, in the aftermath of Eid celebrations. BOOM fact-checked the claim to be originally from Bangladesh. They do show the aftermath of  Eid celebrations.

 

Type and Outcome Effects of False Claims 

We classified the claims based on typology of false information and their purported impact. 

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Some general observations - 

  • 80% of smear campaigns were peddled with the help of misleading claims. 
  • 82% of claims promoting enmity between communities relied on misleading claims. 
  • Usage of false-context and false connections appeared most in sensationalist claims (48% and 28% respectively). 
  • Last month, manipulated content (4% of all claims) were used to peddle smear campaigns only. 

Let us go over some examples - 

Misleading Content  

A misleading claim is one that is incriminating in nature. In such claims, things are taken out-of-context to frame individuals/organisations in circumstances not originally present. Examples -


The first video is of a BJP leader getting beaten was used to smear the party and the individual by linking it to the outrage against the central government for inaction in the Manipur incident. BOOM's
fact-check
revealed the truth behind it. 



 

The second example is of visuals of a serious fight between two groups were linked to incidents of violence in the run-up to West Bengal's panchayat polls, thus incriminating TMC and Mamata Banerjee. BOOM found that the video can be found online since 2017.  

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

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Some general observations regarding outcome-effects - 

  • Demographic anxiety has lessened by 7% compared to June
  • Smear Campaigns have gone up by 7% compared to June
  • 44% of smear campaigns and 44% of demographic anxiety-based claims target France
  • 100% of demographic anxiety claims target muslims 

Since we have already dealt with claims of demographic anxiety before, here are examples of smear campaigns

Smear Campaigns

Claims that damage the reputation of someone by false accusations are termed as smear campaigns. Here are a few examples - 


Owing to the heavy rainfall in Delhi and the consequent waterlogging in places, claims like the one on the left targeted AAP Delhi and the CM over collapse of civic infrastructure. BOOM found that the visuals are from Rohtak, Haryana and not Delhi. 




 

Video of a man firing an automatic handgun had been linked to BJP supporters spreading terror in Manipur. BOOM's fact-checking proved that the video is originally of a gun-display and has no relation to Manipur at all. 

 

Top Targets of False Claims 

Muslims were the biggest target of disinformation in the month of July, being attacked in 28% of claims. Second to them, the country of France had been targeted in 18% of claims. Interestingly, the Manipur crisis did not delineate a specific target. Instead the claims focused on different sides, sometimes along ethnic lines, and at other times, political ones. 

Medium of Deception 

Videos were the most sought after medium of deception 

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  •  77% of claims of demographic anxiety, 78% of smear campaigns and 68% of fake sensationalism were peddled via videos. 
  • In general, 76% of false information were spread via videos, followed by 21% images and 4% texts.
  • When it comes to nature of claims, 79% of international claims, 61% of political claims, 83% of communal claims and 78% of alarmist claims were peddled via videos. 

Below lies the chart for plotting medium of false information against nature of claims fact-checked - 

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