Fake News On Farmers Protests Led By Old Images & Videos: BOOM Study
A bulk of our fact checks were on videos and images being shared out of context to make false claims about protestors
Similar to the aftermath of events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the farmers protest has been a dominant topic in both real and fake news cycle since November.
Between November 26, 2020 and February 23, 2021, BOOM did 101 unique fact checks on fake news linked to the protests against the three contentious agricultural reform laws passed in the parliament last September.
An analysis of these 101 stories revealed that most of our fact checks during this time (35%) were on fake news about protestors; the most popular type of fake news being unrelated images and videos shared out of context to make false claims about protestors. While 57% of the false claims against protestors demonised them, around 43% glorified them.
Other popular topics we covered were politics (15%), farmers (10%) and separatism (10%). Furthermore, 8% of our fact checks were on communally charged misinformation which mostly targeted Muslims or Sikhs, and another 8% of them were on fake news around law enforcement - with most of them showing the police in a bad light.
Types Of Fake News
We further classified each of our fact checks based on the type of misinformation we saw. We used the classification of fake news into seven different types, as suggested by First Draft founder Claire Wardle - false connection, false context, fabricated content, misleading content, manipulated content, imposter content and satire/parody.
Our analysis revealed that an overwhelming number (74%) of our fact checks were on genuine content shared with false contextual information. Around 9% of our fact checks were on fabricated content, while another 8% were on misleading content. 6% of the fact checks were done on manipulated media.
Images (62.5%) were the most popular medium to share fake news, followed by video (33%)
Looking through the topics and types of fake news we saw, we found that protestors and separatism were the most popular topics of fake news which were targeted with misleading posts containing unrelated images or videos shared out of context. These accounted for 38% of all our fact checks in the given time period.
In these cases, old and unrelated images and videos were used to either glorify or demonise protestors, or link them to Khalistani separatists.
Over 74% of all the fact checks were on images or videos being shared out of context.
Protestors: Bad, Farmers: Good, Establishment: Bad
We further classified our fact checks regarding protestors, farmers, police and establishment into those that showed them in positive light, and those that showed them negatively.
Out of the 35 fact checks on misinformation targeting protestors, 20 of them were on fake news dehumanising protestors, while 15 showed them positively.
In contrast, nine out of 10 fact checks on misinformation targeting farmers evoked sympathy/positive emotions for farmers.
Fake news targeting the authorities were mostly negative. Six out of eight fact checks on fake news targeting the law enforcement showed them in bad light - a number of them used unrelated videos of police brutality to falsely show Delhi Police attacking farmers.
Four out of six fact checks targeting the government showed them negatively. We also did four unique fact checks on misinformation targeting billionaires Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani - all of them showing the duo in negative light.
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