Support

Explore

HomeNo Image is Available
About UsNo Image is Available
AuthorsNo Image is Available
TeamNo Image is Available
CareersNo Image is Available
InternshipNo Image is Available
Contact UsNo Image is Available
MethodologyNo Image is Available
Correction PolicyNo Image is Available
Non-Partnership PolicyNo Image is Available
Cookie PolicyNo Image is Available
Grievance RedressalNo Image is Available
Republishing GuidelinesNo Image is Available

Languages & Countries :






More about them

Fact CheckNo Image is Available
LawNo Image is Available
ExplainersNo Image is Available
NewsNo Image is Available
DecodeNo Image is Available
BOOM ReportsNo Image is Available
Media BuddhiNo Image is Available
Web StoriesNo Image is Available
BOOM ResearchNo Image is Available
WorkshopsNo Image is Available
VideosNo Image is Available

Support

Explore

HomeNo Image is Available
About UsNo Image is Available
AuthorsNo Image is Available
TeamNo Image is Available
CareersNo Image is Available
InternshipNo Image is Available
Contact UsNo Image is Available
MethodologyNo Image is Available
Correction PolicyNo Image is Available
Non-Partnership PolicyNo Image is Available
Cookie PolicyNo Image is Available
Grievance RedressalNo Image is Available
Republishing GuidelinesNo Image is Available

Languages & Countries :






More about them

Fact CheckNo Image is Available
LawNo Image is Available
ExplainersNo Image is Available
NewsNo Image is Available
DecodeNo Image is Available
BOOM ReportsNo Image is Available
Media BuddhiNo Image is Available
Web StoriesNo Image is Available
BOOM ResearchNo Image is Available
WorkshopsNo Image is Available
VideosNo Image is Available
BOOM Research

Muslims Top Target Of Mis/Disinformation For Third Year In A Row: BOOM Report 2023

Muslims were the top target of false claims since 2021, with a majority of claims being shared with the intent of spreading ‘Demographic anxiety’ - a term broadly defined as creating animosity against specific demographic groups

By - Nidhi Jacob | 16 Jan 2024 8:08 AM GMT

BOOM's analysis of all debunked fact-checks in 2023 revealed that Muslims as a community continued to be the primary target of mis/disinformation, mirroring the trend from the previous year. The community has consistently emerged as the primary target of fake news since 2021, per our analysis of the reports from the past two years.

Between January 2 and December 31, 2023, BOOM published 1,190 fact-checks, in English, Hindi and Bangla (this figure excludes the translated stories in Hindi and Bangla from English). Of these, 15.4% or 183 fact-checks were claims targeting the Muslim community. 

Among claims targeting Muslims, 84.2% were found to be shared with the intent of spreading 'Demographic anxiety', a term broadly defined as creating animosity against specific demographic groups. This trend mirrors the growing prevalence of Islamophobic rhetoric in Indian politics, along with increased hostility against Muslims in the country.

Another consistent target included Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, of the 1,190 fact-checks, only 63 targeted Modi. Unlike the Muslim community, the prime minister of the country has a significant amount of false claims portraying him in a positive light. 

Full View

Among the 70 fact-checks on claims targeting political parties, BJP was the prime target of 33 fact-checks, followed by Indian National Congress (21) and Aam Aadmi Party (8).

Further, more than 100 fact-checks were related to the Israel-Palestine war, making it the most fact-checked topic of the year. 

BOOM has been maintaining a database containing all our fact-check stories since 2021. The database includes analysis of each claim and categorises them based on the 'Nature of the Claim', 'Medium', 'Target', 'Sentiment', 'Theme', 'Intent/Purpose' and 'Type of Claim'.

Political false claims dominated in 2023

In 2023, 28.2% or 305 fact-checks were linked to Indian politics, primarily influenced by the state Assembly elections held throughout the year in states such as Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Full View

Misinformation surrounding international events fell in the second-largest category, making up for more than 17%, of all fact-checks. Among these, almost half were related to the Israel-Palestine war, followed by the France riots occurring between June and July, accounting for 8.4%, and the Russia-Ukraine war, representing 4.2%.

Communal false claims closely trailed, comprising 17% of all fact-checks. Within this category, 16.3% specifically propagated Islamophobia.

How were political parties targeted during Assembly elections?

BOOM verified 70 fact-checks targeting political parties. Of these, BJP with 33 fact-checks, INC (21) and AAP (8) were top targets of mis/disinformation during the state Assembly elections last year. BOOM analysed the type, purpose or intent of the claim and the sentiment with which it was shared. Our definitions for each has been adopted from Claire Wardle’s classification of different types and intentions of mis/disinformation. 

Full View

The majority of misinformation targeted at political parties consisted of misleading content (claims which use genuine information in a misleading manner to frame an individual or a group like cropping/editing photos/videos, or cherry-picking quotes or statistics in order to support an argument), totalling 42 fact-checks. Further, 16 fact-checks fell under 'false context' (when authentic content is shared with false contextual information) and 5 fell under manipulated content (alteration of photos/videos in such a way that makes them appear realistic but changes the overall meaning of the original content).

Full View

A substantial 50 of the 70 fact-checks analysed of all political parties were smear campaigns against a particular political party, with BJP (44%) being the main target of smear campaigns, followed by INC (30%) and AAP (12%). 

Full View

For instance, during the Karnataka Assembly elections, a 2017 CEAT Tyres ad showing a man unhappy about paying extra money for a shopping plastic bag was edited and shared with the misleading claim falsely presenting it as a political ad urging people to vote against the BJP and Modi. BOOM found that the viral video was edited and the original ad was from a 2017. 


Similarly, a viral video depicting a man assaulting a power supply employee in Koppal, Karnataka, following a request to settle unpaid dues, was circulated with a deceptive narrative. The false claim suggested that the customer refused to pay his bill due to a supposed Congress promise of free electricity in the state. BOOM found that the man had an outstanding bill of Rs 9,000 and had attacked staffers who were told to disconnect the electricity supply. 

Which politicians were targeted the most?

During the Assembly elections in 2023, various politicians became targets of mis/disinformation, with some being portrayed positively and others in a negative light.

PM Modi emerged as the most targeted politician, a target of 63 fact-checks. Among these, 58.1% portrayed him negatively, while 37.1% presented him in a positive light.

Interestingly, of all politicians, Modi faced the highest number of claims projecting him in a positive manner.

For instance, in March, 2023, multiple mainstream media outlets in India quoted Asle Toje, Deputy Leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, saying that Modi was 'the biggest contender for the Nobel Peace Prize'. BOOM found these reports to be false. While Toje praised Modi's leadership, Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, over an email conversation, told BOOM that Toje was "misquoted and never made any such statement". He further added that Toje could not publicly state the names of nominees shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize, nor speculate on their prospects at winning.


In relation to negative claims against Modi, there were instances of old, unrelated, and manipulated anti-Modi photos being circulated online during Modi's visit to Tamil Nadu. One of these photos displayed a billboard reading "Modi No Entry," while another depicted a railway station sign saying, "Tamil Nadu Says, Go Back Modi, We Hate You." However, BOOM found that both images were old and were not connected to Tamil Nadu.


Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was the second most targeted politician with 37 fact-checks targeting him. While 89.2% of these portrayed him negatively there was only one fact-check which showed him in a positive light. For example, during Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', an image of a slogan saying, "The country will not run with words, Rahul Gandhi will become the Prime Minister" went viral. BOOM found that the image was falsely shared by the coordinator of the Indian Youth Congress Amit Bhadauria and was photoshopped.


Regarding negative claims, BJP posted a cropped video of Rahul Gandhi on social media, falsely claiming that it showed the Congress leader making a derogatory remark by questioning the identity of 'Bharat Mata' or mother India. BOOM found that in the original speech Gandhi had addressed his own question by explaining the term 'Bharat Mata', signifying the people of India. 

With 10 false fact-checks, Arvind Kejriwal was the next target of misinformation. 9 out of 10 fact-checks portrayed him negatively. An example of misinformation includes claims stating that Kejriwal did not clear the competitive Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for his admission into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and instead was admitted through the corporate quota was viral. BOOM verified and found the claims to be false. An RTI enquiry confirmed that his JEE ranking was 563.

How were religious groups targeted?

BOOM fact-checked 211 stories targeting religious groups. Of these, nearly 87% targeted Muslims, 11%, Hindus and 0.9%, Christians. 

In our analysis, it was observed that both Hindus and Muslims were subjected to misleading content, with these claims being the most prevalent form of misinformation for both groups. However, there was a significant disparity in the proportion of these claims among the two groups. Specifically, 67.4% of misleading claims were directed towards Muslims, whereas only 5.2% of these claims targeted Hindus.

Further, 0.48% of misleading content were directed towards Christians. 

Full View

Likewise, 72.2% of the 211 fact-checks aimed at Muslims were communal in nature, in contrast to the 5.26% that targeted Hindus. Nearly three-quarters of the claims targeting Muslims were spread with the intention of causing animosity between religious groups. 

Full View

For example, two old videos showing nails hidden inside capsules were shared as a conspiracy by Muslims to harm Hindus. The videos were shared with the caption, "All brothers, before swallowing the capsule, do check with a magnet... a new jihad is rising." BOOM had previously fact-checked this false claim in March 2021. We had found that both videos were not from India. The first one was likely from Pakistan, while the second from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In another fact-check story, an image of a minor girl who was raped and killed in Uttar Pradesh's Shravasti district circulated on social media with a misleading claim. The false narrative suggested that the perpetrator was a Rohingya Muslim pretending to be a Hindu. BOOM contacted Shravasti Police, who confirmed that the accused was a Hindu named Sheel Kumar Pathak, and not a Rohingya Muslim.

After the launch of Chandrayaan 3 on the moon's south pole by India, various forms of misinformation emerged on the topic. BOOM conducted a fact-check on a video circulating online, depicting students chanting 'Nara-e-Takbeer' and 'Allah-hu-Akbar.' The video suggested that Kashmiri students in Mewar University, Rajasthan, assaulted an engineering student for celebrating the success of Chandrayaan-3. We found that the brawl began after a student skipped a queue in the university's canteen and it was unrelated to Chandrayaan-3.

Additionally, BOOM found that polarisation of anti-Muslim and anti-Hindu claims were also hugely different, with a total of 94.4% of the them being Anti-Muslim and 5.6% being Anti-Hindu. 

Regarding claims targeting both religious groups, BOOM verified a collage of wedding photos, which depicted the two-year-old marriage of Hindu youth Rahul Verma from Mandsaur and a Muslim girl named Iqra from Rajasthan. The false claim suggested that Iqra adopted Sanatan Dharma and married Rahul, and further alleged that Rahul killed Iqra by burning her and fled. However, Mandsaur Police clarified to BOOM that the claim made with the viral pictures is false; both Rahul and Iqra are alive and safe.

Media Misreporting in 2023

BOOM debunked 77 fact-checks on false or misreporting, by news channels, news websites and wire agencies between January 1 to December 31, 2023. Here are the main take-aways:

1. Of the 77 fact-checks, 62 were published by mainstream media through their own bylines while the remaining 15 were misreported by wire agencies and published by newsrooms as part of their syndicated feed, as per BOOM's exclusive analysis focussing on media misreporting in 2023. 

2. News18, Times Now and Zee News were the mainstream media outlets to push out most media-related misinformation in 2023 

3. Asian News International (ANI) remained the top wire agency in the media misreporting list with 8 instances of false news reported by them.

4. Our report also found that in several instances, media houses fell for fake news shared by right wing acocunts on X, like Megh Updates (@MeghUpdates), BALA (@erbmjha), Rishi Bagree (@rishibagree), The Right Wing Guy (@T_R_W_G), Kreately (@KreatelyMedia), Dr Nimo Yadav (@niiravmodi) and The Tatva (@thetatvaindia). Media outlets fell for at least nine tweets by MeghUpdates where the account shared false and unverified information. 

5. Of the 77 fact-checks, the maximum instances of misreporting was around the ICC Men's ODI World Cup, the Indian Premier League (IPL) and individual cricketers.

7. News outlets such as Economic Times, Times of India, Business Standard, Odisha TV, Lokmat, ABP, Jagran, Mint, CNBC TV 18, ANI, News18, India Today mainly pushed out fabricated news supporting the Indian government whereas outlets such as ANI, WION, Zee News, India TV, Amar Ujala, Hindustan Times, DNA, ABP News, News24, Firstpost were responsible for spreading false and communal claims against Muslims. 

Also Read: The Biggest Stories Indian Media Misreported in 2023

Russia-Ukraine War

BOOM verified only 9 fact-checks surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war in 2023. BOOM had verified several false claims during the first half of 2022 when the war escalated in February of that year. Of the 9 fact-checks debunked by BOOM in 2023, 5 were smear campaigns against Ukraine and its president Volodymyr Zelensky and America's president Joe Biden. 

Israel-Palestine War

BOOM fact-checked 111 false claims around the Israel-Palestine war between October 7 to December 31, 2023, out of which 24 were found to be made with unrelated graphic videos and images, showing anything between scenes of beheading of children, to execution of prisoners, and falsely linking them to the violence.

BOOM conducted a comprehensive study of 100 false claims related to the war and published the findings in December, 2023. Here are the main takeaways:

1. On X (formerly Twitter), verified accounts spearheaded the mis/disinformation campaign around the war, with 64% of all claims involving at least one verified account. Additionally, 13% of these claims were shared by official government or authority handles.

2. 8% of the claims shared video game footage (mostly from combat simulators) as real. 4% used videos that were entirely fabricated through artificial intelligence while 2% of the claims were made using deepfakes (videos edited using artificial intelligence).

3. 56% of all the claims we studied were found to be made using old and out of context videos, and falsely linking them to the violence.

4. 27% of the claims we studied were found to exclusively sensationalise the war using false/misleading information

Themes by month

BOOM further conducted a monthly analysis of the top themes of mis/disinformation in 2023. 

Islamophobic claims were spread consistently throughout the year, reaching peaks in January, February, July, and December.

Misinformation related to the February 2023 Turkey earthquakes were mainly observed in that month and March. 

Full View

False claims around the Israel-Palestine war peaked in October and November and gradually reduced in December.

Between May and August, social media was rife with false claims regarding the Manipur violence which erupted between the Meitei and Kuki groups.

Full View

Misinformation around the 2023 Assembly elections in Karnataka peaked between April and May. Additionally, a substantial number of election-related claims were verified between October and November when Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh went to the polls.

(With inputs from Archis Chowdhury)