BJP Pushed ‘Murder’ Narrative in Sushant Singh Rajput Case: Study

Here’s an analysis of all the social media keywords and hashtags used to talk about Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

Published
India
4 min read
A look at how social media trends and hashtags changed the trajectory of the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
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A study published by social media researchers has found that the discussion around the death of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput changed from suicide to “murder and conspiracy” after the first month.

The paper, authored by researchers Joyojeet Pal, Syeda Zainab Akbar, Ankur Sharma, Himani Negi and Anmol Panda, has tracked YouTube pages of news channels, hashtags and tweets from politicians, influencers, journalists, and media houses, and shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) affiliated members in their tweets used words like ‘murder’ over suicide more than other parties.

The study was conducted of posts from 14 June, the day of his death, to 12 September 2020. Tweets by over 2,000 journalists and media houses and 7,818 politicians were studied and 7,171 YouTube videos were analysed.

The Politics of SSR Case

The study found that 7,818 BJP and INC politicians put out 1,03,125 tweets about the case. Unlike the INC, BJP’s tweets used the word “murder” instead of “suicide” to describe the actor's death.

The study found that politicians extensively used the name of Rhea Chakraborty in their tweets, followed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Republic media network’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and actor Kangana Ranaut.

The coalition government of Maharashtra and Mumbai Police were targeted by the BJP with hashtags like #ShameOnMumbaiPolice, #UddhavResignOrCBI4SSR and #ShameOnMahaGovt.

Those supporting the Maharashtra government started using hashtags like #WeTrustMumbaiPolice and #WeStandWithMumbaiPolice.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)
Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)

Media Coverage

The study took into consideration the tweets of 1,930 journalists and 239 media houses. The study observed how journalists were complicit in pushing an agenda against Rhea. Both individual and media houses pushed for a CBI investigation with hashtags like #CBIMustForSushant and #CBIForSSR.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)

The study found that the term suicide was used in the first month of the coverage but steadily decreased with time.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)
The conversation then moved to nepotism in Bollywood, to Rhea and her family to drugs. New characters were periodically interviewed and found space on the media houses’ YouTube channels.

Viewership saw a sharp rise during the broadcasting of key interviews and speculative material. Another sharp rise in viewership was seen during the arrest of Rhea, which fell immediately after that.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)

Bihar vs Maharashtra

In the initial days, Rajput was portrayed as an outsider from Bihar who came to Mumbai for work. The study saw a rise in tweets by politicians in Bihar when an FIR was registered by the late actor’s father.

According to the study, politicians across the spectrum in Bihar tweeted about the matter in late July. Hashtags such as #CBIForSonOfBihar and #BiharsPride started trending. However, the number of politicians in Bihar talking about the matter fell with time.

When the outsider versus Mumbai film industry debate picked steam, the hashtag of #NationStandsWithKangana was tweeted by politicians from Bihar, who showed their support for Kangana Ranaut.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)

The study also observed that the Mumbai Police was on the receiving end of several thousand tweets by various stakeholders until the CBI took over. Those opposing the Maharashtra government created several hashtags like #ShameOnMumbaiPolice, #MahaGovtExposed and trolled some politicians, including Maharashtra CM’s son Aaditya Thackeray.

Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)
Information source: <a href="http://joyojeet.people.si.umich.edu/ssr/">Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput</a>
Information source: Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput
(Photo: The Quint)

Misinformation

The study looked at all the misinformation that was debunked in the case. It explains how the innuendos and biased reporting made it difficult to differentiate between misinformation and disinformation.

The study also found some pieces of misinformation around the initiation of the CBI investigation and Bihar Police’s investigation. Later, hashtags were seen linking Bollywood celebrities with gangsters in Pakistan when BJP’s Subramanian Swamy and Ranaut talked about the Bollywood “mafia”.

In conclusion, the study shows how the virality and speed that social media discussions provide impact a human being’s life even after they are gone.

The complete study can be found here.

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