How SonyLIV's PR Stunt Created Panic And Fake News

The pre-recorded audio stating that a person had witnessed a murder, led to panic and misinformation that was further aggravated by police on patrol

A public relations stunt by SonyLIV an online streaming service, for its upcoming show Undekhi where it cold called people with a recorded message about witnessing a murder created panic and has led to a wave of misinformation.

On July 10, several netizens lashed out at SonyLIV for a pre-recorded frantic call that they received as part of a promotional activity by the streaming app. According to tweets, the pre-recorded calls were made by a caller, who identified himself as Rishi. In the recordings, the caller can be heard worriedly saying that he had witnessed a murder, that was filmed on his phone, and that the murderers were after him. Towards the end of the call, it is revealed that it is a promotional call for SonyLIV's new crime show, Undekhi.

This caused panic among several netizens, who mass reported the incident to the Mumbai police.

Following which, several Mumbai Police teams on patrol made announcements advising people not to receive calls from numbers which started with digits '+140'.

Further, clips of policemen misleadingly stating that if they received such a call it would lead to a zero account balance, also went viral.

BOOM reached out to Harish Baijal, DIG, Cyber Security Maharashtra Police, who confirmed that after complaints against the SonyLIV gimmick calls, police mobile vans patrolling made these misleading announcements and a clarification has since been issued by the department on the viral clips.

Promotional gimmick boomerangs

Netizens who received the pre-recorded call expressed the distress they suffered and tagged Mumbai Police on Twitter to call out on the promotional gimmick by SonyLIV.

Mumbai Police's official Twitter handle also admonished SonyLIV for such a promotional activity which led to panic among citizens.

Additionally, the Maharashtra Cyber Police stated on Twitter that the channel has been instructed to cease the promotional activity immediately and advised people not to panic and create rumours if they received any such call.

SonyLIV clarifies

After the backlash, SonyLIV issued an apology in which the platform claimed that it was a test activity which had gone out accidentally.

BOOM reached out to SonyLIV for a response. The article will be updated as and when we receive the same.

'Promotional call' gives way to misinformation

The damage had already been done, with several WhatsApp forwards claiming that calls starting with the digits '+140' should not be received. Noteworthy that the SonyLIV promotional calls were made from numbers starting with digits '+140, a common code used by telemarketers.

Soon after clips of Mumbai Police personnel warning people not to receive calls starting with the digits '+140' to avoid a bank scam were also viral. In one such viral clip, a cop can be heard saying, "Don't receive the calls starting with 140. If you receive them then your bank account's balance will be reduced to 'zero'."

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BOOM also received several queries on its WhatsApp helpline number (7700906111) inquiring about it.

Clip viral on WhatsApp

The Maharashtra Cyber Police later tweeted clarifying on the viral clips of constables. The cyber police stated that there is no fact behind it as long as one does not reveal their bank account details, OTP or credit card / debit card number.

BOOM reached out to Harish Baijal, DIG, Cyber Security Maharashtra Police, who said, "After the promotional calls by SonyLIV, many police mobiles on patrolling made announcements that the call is fake. The department has also issued an advisory about money being wiped out from your account clips which are viral."

Previously, In October 2018 a similar PR gimmick was tried by the makers of the film Pihu, who tried promoting it with calls to people with a pre-recorded audio of a child crying, which disturbed several people who took to social media criticising it.

Updated On: 2020-07-15T12:44:47+05:30
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