Several pro-Congress social media accounts have posted doctored videos of the Amitabh Bachchan-led popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati in a bid to overthrow the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Madhya Pradesh.
While misinformation is par for the course during elections in India, Madhya Pradesh has seen several doctored videos in the run-up to voting in the state. Genuine videos have been digitally altered by overlaying them with fabricated voice-overs.
The polls for the Madhya Pradesh elections were cast on November 17, 2023 and the results will be declared on December 3 next month.
Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), an Indian adaptation of the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, has turned out to be an unusual conduit to frame political messaging for Congress supporters.
The game show, now in its 15th season, involves the host asking a series of general knowledge questions where contestants can win up to ₹7 crore in prize money.
The show, which relies heavily on the charisma of Bachchan, a household name in India, is popular among Hindi speakers in the country.
However, doctored clips from the show either focussing negatively on Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan or putting a positive spin on Congress candidate Kamal Nath have been shared by several Congress supporters.
For instance, BOOM fact-checked this video that purportedly showed Bachchan asking a contestant a question about which minister was known as the “announcement minister” for his fake promises. The options include several BJP chief ministers, one of them being Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The contestant then selects Chouhan, which ends up being the right answer, and he wins Rs 20,000.
Another claim that BOOM debunked showed a doctored video of Bachchan asking a question about which minister’s government helped establish the Mahakal Lok, a massive temple complex in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. The contestant, playing for the 7.5 crore question, claims Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the correct answer and loses the round. The accounts who shared this doctored video claimed that the contestant was targeted with false BJP propaganda and hence lost out on the cash prize.
A third video that BOOM fact-checked showed Bachchan asking a question about the number of farmers that received a loan waiver from the Kamal Nath government in 2018. The contestant chose the highest number from the options and ended up winning the Rs 40,000 reward.
In reality, none of these questions were ever asked on the show. The videos have been skillfully edited using detailed graphics of the questions and an almost identical voiceover of Bachchan. Unlike other doctored videos that involve simply cutting the clip at various points to make the false claims, these videos are made using relatively superior technological tools, possibly even AI.
Both BJP and Congress supporters have resorted to sharing misinformation ahead of voting in the state. We fact-checked another doctored video of Kamal Nath claiming to cancel BJP’s Laadli Behna Scheme that supports women with financial needs and replacing it with Congress’ scheme went viral earlier this month.
Several users online, claiming to be supporters of Congress or affiliated with the party in some capacity, have shared these doctored videos. Facebook user Mukesh Sharma whose bio mentions that he works as a delegate at Madhya Pradesh Congress shared the doctored video of Mahakal Lok from KBC. Click here and here for other similar posts. X user @shaandelhite or Shaantanu shared two of the fake videos, posts that have remained on their account despite users in the comments calling out their inauthenticity. See here and here. This user’s post about the Mahakal Lok corridor has almost 600,000 views as of writing this article.
We also came across morphed videos of ads for OTT platforms Hotstar and Amazon Prime (archive here), and a clip from the show Bigg Boss, all shared with fake voice-overs to drum up support for Kamal Nath.
BOOM reached out to KK Mishra, head of Madhya Pradesh Congress’ media department, who denied any involvement in making these videos.
“We have not been able to pay attention to this (the KBC videos). We were busy preparing for the elections. We don’t have any involvement in this.” Mishra also added that his team had not seen the viral videos.
BOOM’s Decode had earlier spoken to Divyendra Singh Jadoun of Polymath Solutions - an AI start-up, who was creating "personalised messages" for Congress party workers involved in the preparations for the Rajasthan assembly elections.
However, he ruled out creating messaging targeted at voters.
"Currently we will be only working for personalised messaging for party workers and not the voter base. We are mulling over the script in case we undertake voter base messaging, as we will be cautious of maintaining electoral decorum," Jadoun had told Decode.
Meanwhile, Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the official broadcasters of KBC, released a statement on October 9 calling out the fake videos, asking viewers to remain “vigilant and refrain from sharing unverified content.”
BOOM reached out to the channel regarding the circulation of additional doctored videos of the show, after which they released a similar statement on November 17. It read, “We have been alerted to the circulation of certain manipulated videos from our show 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. These videos misleadingly overlay fabricated voiceovers of the host and contestants and present a distorted version of the original content. We strongly condemn such misinformation. We are actively addressing this matter with the cyber-crime cell and urge our viewers to refrain from sharing unverified content.”
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