Finding Virat Kohli's Troll To Women Under The Taliban: BOOM's Top 10 Fact-Checks

What, according to BOOM's fact-checkers, were their most challenging fact-checks of the year? Here are 10 fact-checks we've chosen for 2021.

What, according to BOOM's fact-checkers, were their most challenging fact-checks of the year? Here are 10 fact-checks we've chosen for 2021. Each reporter tells us why they chose it.

Twitter User Threatening Kohli's Daughter With Rape Is From India, Not Pakistan

Archis Chowdhury, Senior Correspondent: Data and Policy

Why I chose this fact-check

Following India's loss to Pakistan in the T20 world cup last October, Mohammed Shami - India's only Muslim player - was faced with a barrage of Islamophobia and trolling. Team skipper Virat Kohli was quick to come to his defence, which in turn made him a target for trolling as well. In all this, one particular troll stood out due to the vicious nature of his post - he made a rape threat towards Kohli's 10-month-old daughter.

As screenshots of the tweet went viral, several right-wing social media handles were quick to point ouTalibt that the profile picture of the troll contained a picture of a girl wearing a Pakistani jersey, and concluded that the account must be run by a Pakistani.

While the account itself was either deleted or suspended, me and my colleague Sujith were able to track down archives of the previous handles of the user, and discover a whole array of past tweets made using different handles. These tweets showed that the user used to frequently tweet in Telugu, tweet about Hyderabad and Telangana, and also tweet predominantly on right-leaning topics. The user had also retweeted prominent right-wing handles, including that of PM Narendra Modi. And how did we establish that these handles belonged to the same user who threatened Kohli's daughter with rape? We matched the Twitter IDs of all the handles, including the troll's, and found that they were a match!

BOOM was the first to conclusively prove that the troll was from Hyderabad, India, and not Pakistan. And a week later, Mumbai Police nabbed the culprit - Ramnagesh Akubathini, a 23-year-old IIT Graduate from Hyderabad.

Read the story here.

Photos Of WB Rape And Murder Victim Falsely Linked To Post Poll Violence

- Swasti Chatterjee, News Editor (East)

Why I chose this fact-check

Fact-checking a sensitive story can be tricky. Depending on quotes from the police are usually not enough; it is imperative that we try to speak to family members. The danger is that in cases where there has been violence, we may end up re-traumatising family members.

I was mindful of this, but decided that in this case it was important to find out.

After the Bengal election results were announced on May 2, 2021, photographs of a 20-year-old woman allegedly raped and murdered by construction workers in Medinipur, began circulating with claims that she was attacked because of her political affiliation to the BJP. The claim was amplified by BJP leaders from Bengal, who alleged that the victim was murdered and hanged by TMC workers.

It was particularly difficult to verify the claim because we had to get reactions from the family members of the deceased just hours into their grieving. The crime scene and details were gory; it was challenging to send photos of the victim to her brother to identify her and get confirmation about her alleged political affiliation. When we spoke to her brother and family, we found that they were helpless about the political narrative that had been cast around the loss.

Read the story here.

Petrol Price: Are State Taxes Higher Than Central Taxes? A Factcheck

- Mohammed Kudrati, Senior Correspondent, Data and Finance

Why I chose this fact-check

It was one of the few instances where our stories are "derivative" in nature. Usually, the data that we rely on is out there and explicit. In this story, we put the components together to derive a final data point, which is the price point of fuel in various cities.

This story is important because it's about rising fuel prices and we were sure that people would like to know how fuel is priced. WhatsApp messages that pin the blame on one or the other parties make it difficult for us to make an informed decision on any issue.

Read the story here.

2012 Image Of Ukraine's Overpass Plan Falsely Shared As Ahmedabad

- Sk Badiruddin, Fact-Checker, Bangla

Why I chose this fact-check

An old image of a proposed design of an overpass in Kiev, capital city of Ukraine, was doing the rounds of social media was being shared as a renovation plan of the Vaishnavdevi circle in Ahmedabad. We reached out to Viktor Petruk, the transport engineer, who designed the plan.

This is when it got tricky. The Ukrainian designer did not know English. The designer's wife helped us get his secretary's number. His secretary came to our rescue and translated the quote over a WhatsApp call.

Read the story here.

Can COVID-19 vaccine cause spoons coins to stick to your body

- Shachi Sutaria, Senior Correspondent, Health

Why I chose this fact check

A viral video of metal spoons and coins sticking to a vaccinated person's body became so viral that news publications including the BBC, Navbharat Times, Live Hindustan, News18 carried it. Some publications interviewed Arvind Sonar, 71, from Nashik and nicknamed him as the 'Magnetic Man'.

So how did we fact-check it? It required extensive research along with getting in touch with the family and understanding their claims, speaking to researchers, finding other relevant instances, getting a committee that debunks superstitions to speak to us.

Read the story here.

Disturbing Videos Of Capsules With Nails Are Not From India

- Anmol Alphonso, Senior Fact-Checker

Why I chose this fact check

We had done this story back in March 2021 when the second wave of the Coronavirus had begun to hit India. The first wave saw a lot of communal misinformation especially post the Tablighi Jamat incident. The video was viral on WhatsApp — two videos clubbed together showed iron nails found in medicinal capsules with the false communal claim that it is a new tactic by Muslims in India to kill Hindus.

Debunking this video was tough— we had to find where it is from, wherever such an incident has happened, and if so, to establish whether or not the company had produced these capsules that had nails.

It took me 4 days to establish all this.

This is what I found: First, the two videos are from different locations. The first video has the name of the capsule written in Urdu language on the package and in the second video one can hear the person opening the capsules, speaking in Russian language.

So for the first video, we found the name on the table strip was written Esoral with the manufacturing address written as from Karachi. However, we found that Esoral is a drug owned by Eskayef pharmaceuticals, a Bangladesh based drug company and the packaging of this tablet is quite different from the viral video. We then contacted the Bangladeshi company who confirmed to us that they do not sell these capsules either in India or Pakistan or partner with anyone outside Bangladesh. We also cross checked the packaging of the original Essonal capsules which was very different than in the viral video.

This showed that the nail capsules were neither manufactured by Esornal or being sold in India or Pakistan. Most likely the capsules in the viral video were a duplicate.

For the second video, we found a longer video uploaded on a Russian website with a person removing nails from tablet capsules while speaking in Russian and the brand was a Russian manufacturer. This conclusively proved that the set of two videos were neither from India or the brand names shown on the tablet capsules were Indian companies or selling in India which helped debunk the communal claim.

We still keep getting the video on our helpline — asking us if it's true.

Read the story here.

Morphed Image From Iraq Shared As Taliban Chaining Afghan Women

- Mohammad Salman, Fact-Checker, BOOM Hindi

Why I chose this fact check

An image showing three chained burqa-clad women walking behind a man holding their chain was extensively shared on social media soon after the armed takeover by Taliban in Afghanistan. The image was being passed off as recent and had been edited to separately add the chain.

I was able to find the original image and establish it was clicked sometime in 2003. However, the difficulty lay in tracking down the photographer who had clicked the original image. Going the extra mile to get in touch with Murat Duzyol, the Istanbul-based photographer who had clicked the picture in Erbil city in 2003, is what makes this an important fact check for me.

Duzyol also provided BOOM with the original photograph that he had clicked in 2003.

Read the story here.

No, This Is Not A Kashmiri Pandit Objecting To Cow Slaughter In Kashmir

- Sumit Usha, News Editor, BOOM Hindi

Why I chose this fact check

The video was extremely viral with a communal claim that a Kashmiri pandit was objecting to cow slaughter in Kashmir. The video showed a man stopping a group of people from slaughtering a cow in an open space.

That the video did not have any other clue and the claim being in sync with what was shown in the viral clip itself made it a difficult fact check. I had to go through hundreds of replies on multiple videos shared on Facebook to track the person who had recorded this video. However, this was only half the work done. The man hailed from kashmir and had faced enough trouble after the video had gone viral on social media. It took some persuasion to convince him to overcome his reluctance and talk to us.

The man told us that he was a Kashmiri Muslim and not a Kashmiri pandit as claimed in the viral posts. The video had been recorded by him during Eid-al-adha in July 2021. He clarified that he had no problem with the sacrifice but the place where the animals were being slaughtered as it created hygiene related issues for him. According to him the place of sacrifice was close to his kitchen window and he was concerned about hygiene issues.

The fact check was difficult - first there were no clues that could provide an entry point in the fact check and second, it was convincing the person who made the video —talk to us.

Read the story here.

I Am Right Here If They Want To See My Injuries: Lathi-Charged Farmer

- Nivedita Niranjankumar, News Editor (South)

Why I chose this fact check

The story at first seemed near impossible to do. The task at hand was to find one particular farmer in a protest filled with thousands. This, while we, the fact checkers were sitting in Bangalore and Mumbai. But we didn't give up.

Once the visual evidence was in place, we contacted several local journalists who ran news pages on Facebook. I spoke to about six such page owners and went through thousands of comments about the incident and finally got two hits. One, a Punjabi journalist whose uncle was attending the protest and who knew the old man in the photo and another person who said he was the nephew of the old man. Both said the old, injured man did not have a phone.

So we started to look for someone who would trace him and get us to speak to him. We found one farmer who woke up at 6 am, waited till the old man finished bathing and there we finally were able to speak to the farmer whose photos had gone viral. After three sleepless nights, the man himself spoke to us on the phone at 7 am from Delhi. He even agreed to speak on video, record himself speaking and send us the video for the fact check.

Read the story here.

Indian Teen, And Her Claims Of Being A NASA Panellist: The Real Story

Why we chose this fact-check

In August, Indian media reported a rather incredible story of a 14-year-old from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, being invited as a panellist by NASA to review proposals for its Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Fellowship Programme.

The articles also claimed that the teen was selected based on a paper on 'black holes and God', and that she was being funded for a trip to the United States by NASA.

The story made a lot of noise on social media. While some alleged fraud, others smelt a scam. Regardless, several mainstream news outlets in India ran the story anyway, without identifying or probing the red flags any further.

We pieced together this story through an online investigation, conversations with the teen and her mother, and email conversations with NASA officials. The real story- we found out - was that the 14-year-old was selected as a panellist through a third-party service, based on false information regarding her background and credentials.

Read the story here.

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