Beware of Fake Tweets Attributed to Swara Bhasker & Romila Thapar
Did historian Romila Thapar tweet that Mughals made her rich? No, it’s an edited photo.
The spread of misinformation is like an art form that is designed to deceive. One of the ingenious methods to spread fake news is the clever usage of “parody pages”. In this article, we show you how parody pages are being used to spread misinformation and why you must be vigilant when you come across certain posts.
Take for example the following image – a screenshot of a post shared by the Facebook page ‘Forgotten Tweets From Liberal Echo Chambers’.
Targeting Historian Romila Thapar
Historian Romila Thapar, through her “verified Twitter handle”, has made the following statement: “You can agree or disagree with Swara Bhaskar, but mughals made me rich at least. Let that sink in. #MughalsMadeMeRich #Mughals #India”.
The screenshot of Thapar’s purported tweet, posted on Facebook by the page ‘Forgotten Tweets From Liberal Echo Chambers’, has received more than 90 shares.
TRUE OR FALSE?
There is no verified account of Romila Thapar on Twitter. Neither is there any such tweet. The screenshot shared is an edited one. Even the phrase “You ReTweeted” is spelled wrong with “T” in caps, further proof that it is an edited photo.
So, this is a misleading post against one of India’s prominent historians. But notice the picture again. You might have missed this the first time, but next to the number of retweets and likes in the photo is a phrase written in a light-coloured font, “Fictional tweet”.
With the disclaimer “Fictional tweet” written in a manner that is likely to be missed by several people who chance upon this post, there is a likelihood that people may take this post to be true. Not just is this post not the only instance of this tactic being used, sometimes even the “Fictional tweet” disclaimer is not written anywhere, showing a clear intent to spread fake news.
Targeting Actor Swara Bhasker
Notice the image below, another screenshot of a post by the same Facebook page. This time, the “Fictional tweet” disclaimer is missing.
The image shows a purported tweet by actor Swara Bhasker, in which she says, “I stand by what I said before, Mughals made India “Rich” from the “Richest”, get it now? #SorryNoSorry”.
This post by ‘Forgotten Tweets From Liberal Echo Chambers’ has more than a 100 shares, with people sharing the post with captions such as “Thanks for correcting” and “Accepted and corrected”.
TRUE OR FALSE?
The purported tweets of both Romila Thapar and Swara Bhasker are being circulated in the context of an online debate on whether Mughal rule had economically benefited India.
However, just like Thapar, Swara Bhasker has not posted any such tweet. The spelling of “You ReTweeted” is a further giveaway that this is a post peddling a fake tweet.
Fake Tweet Attributed to Alt News
Another post by the same Facebook page shows a screenshot of a tweet purportedly by Alt News, the fact-checking organisation, stating “Confirmed sources say Humans of Hindutva is operated by Sanjay Rajoura and Darshan Mondkar from a full fledged office, in an apartment building from Pune with 11 employees and has 23 lakhs of annual budget. @INCIndia is a sole funder.”
The post claims that the Congress party is the “sole funder” of the ‘Humans of Hindutva’ page and that it is run by comedian Sanjay Rajoura and a person named Darshan Mondkar.
TRUE OR FALSE?
Not only has Alt News never posted such a tweet, if you notice the screenshot carefully, you will notice that towards the bottom of the picture, it contains the following phrase (written in light-coloured font again): “Fictional Tweet! because they’ll never hurt their own ecosystem.”
Even the caption accompanying the photo, “Wow! This must be fake. Prathik Sinha will never expose Congress IT cell.” is written in a deliberately misleading manner, intended to make you fall for the fake tweet.
Interestingly enough, the creators of this post decided to spread fake news by riding on the back of Alt News’ credibility in busting misinformation!
Tweets From Parody Accounts Shared to Spread Misinformation
Another clever way to deceive people is by sharing a screenshot from a parody account on Facebook or Twitter. Compare these two Twitter accounts. On the right is the real Republic TV’s account with the handle @republic and on the left is a “parody page” with a misleadingly similar handle @republicTv.
The parody page is no longer present on Twitter but till the time it was there, it created a lot of intentional fake news mischief.
The fake Republic TV account shared this fake quote by activist and former JNU student Shehla Rashid purportedly stating, “Even after Salman Khan ‘a muslim’ pleaded not guilty, and a muslim never lies, still Court convicted him in #BlackBuckPoachingCase , It proves Muslims aren’t safe in India”.
Screenshots of the tweet by the parody account were then shared extensively on Whatsapp. Not only had Shehla Rashid never made such a statement, the tweet itself was from a parody account and not from Republic’s real handle.
But when you receive the screenshot on Whatsapp and you see that @republicTv has shared it, you may not think twice before believing that Shehla Rashid actually said this. You are likely to not even notice that it’s a fake account and not the real Republic TV account.
This is why screenshots of parody accounts are particularly effective in spreading misinformation.
Don’t Fall for Fake Quotes
Do not fall for such misinformation spread through pictures of fake tweets and screenshots of posts by parody accounts. Here’s how you can stay vigilant against such fake news.
- If you see a suspicious purported quote attributed to the official Twitter account of Romila Thapar or Swara Bhasker or anyone else, please check the tweet for yourself on their Twitter profiles before believing what the screenshot says.
- If you receive a screenshot of a tweet on social media, open Twitter and check whether the Twitter handle mentioned in the screenshot even exists and if it does, whether it actually belongs to the person/organisation mentioned. Note: Some fake tweets will mention the right handle and profile name, so you should check for the tweet itself as well.
- Check the page which has posted the screenshot. If the screenshot has been posted by a page that is not credible or reliable, you know you shouldn’t trust everything you read on it. Check the description of the page or Twitter account to see if it is described as a parody page.
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