In light of a series of arguments and counter-arguments between Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut and politicians from Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress-led government, several impersonator Twiter handles supporting Ranaut have cropped up in the name of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray.
For the purpose of this story, we have shortlisted a few accounts which have gained a significant number of followers and will illustrate how fake quotes attributed by them to Raj Thackeray subsequently went viral on social media.
Fake Accounts in Thackeray’s Name
On 4 September, a fake tweet by this imposter account claiming that the MNS will be throwing a grand welcome for Kangana Ranaut when she returns to Mumbai, went viral.
With over 13,000 followers, this account was set up in August 2020 and has only tweeted in support of Kangana Ranaut ever since.
The tweet by the impostor account reads: “आगामी 9 तारिख को हिन्दू शेरनी कंगना रनौत का महाराष्ट्र की राजधानी मुंबई में भव्य स्वागत किया जायेगा। संजय राऊत हिम्मत हैं तो रोक के दिखाना।”
[Translation: On 9 September, Hindu lioness Kangana Ranaut will be given a grand welcome in Maharashtra’s capital, Mumbai. Sanjay Raut, if you have courage, try and stop us.]
At the time of filing this report, the fake tweet by the impersonator account had 15,000 likes and over 3,200 retweets. It had also made its way to Facebook with multiple people sharing screenshots of it with captions hailing Raj Thakeray for giving a “befitting reply” to Sanjay Raut.
Further, on searching with the text of the tweet, we found that the fake handle had recently changed its username from @RealThackeray to @ThackerayOffic and then finally to @IRajThackeray29.
The Red Flags
In addition to @IRajThackeray29, we followed the activity of several other impersonator accounts (@RaajThakrey, @realthakare, @TigarThakre) of the politician and were able to identify certain red flags –common to all – which raised questions regarding the veracity of these handles.
- Firstly, Raj Thackery has been on Twitter since May 2017 and his official handle is ‘@RajThackeray’. We noticed that the other imposter accounts started cropping up between April - August 2020.
- We found that these impersonator accounts are unverified and have bios ridden with grammatical errors.
- Most of these handles operated under different usernames before they switched to their current ids which are now being used to insinuate that they are the accounts of Raj Thackeray. We have already illustrated this in the case of @IRajThackeray29. Another example is @TigarThakre which was previously operating under the username @RealRanwat.
Raj Thackeray’s Official Twitter Handle
MNS chief Raj Thackeray joined Twitter in May 2017 and has a verified account with over 7,23,000 followers. A glance through his profile suggests that he has not tweeted anything remotely similar to what is being shared by the impersonator accounts.
The Quint reached out to the MNS office for a confirmation and we have learnt that the party has taken cognisance of the fake Twitter handles and a complaint has been registered at the Shivaji Park police station.
This is not the first time that impersonator accounts targeting a politician have surfaced on Twitter.
Earlier in June, several impersonating accounts of world leaders including Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tweeted that they support India amid the tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
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