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From Politics to Cricket, Here’s How YouTube Channels Turn News Into ‘Fake News'

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

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WebQoof
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Did you hear that President Draupadi Murmu has warned Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud?

Well, regardless of whether you heard it or not, this news is not true, but a completely fabricated story. Self-proclaimed 'news channels' with tens of thousands of subscribers present such false information as the day's big news.

Not just the CJI, they also make misleading claims about cricketers, like Virat Kohli, saying that there was a verbal spat between him and former cricketer Gautam Gambhir.

That is not where it ends. Such channels have also been found to mislead people by giving them inaccurate information about crime news.

For example, in the 2022 Shraddha Walkar murder case, some of them falsely claimed that the accused belonged to the Parsi community.

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One such YouTube channel, named Only News 24x7, shared a video which carried a misleading claim about the President of India and the CJI.

  • At the time of writing this report, more than 20 lakh people had subscribed to this channel, which repeatedly publishes videos with a variety of claims related to the CJI.

  • The claims are not restricted to the contents of the video. These channels upload their videos with misleading headlines as well as misleading text in their thumbnails – static images placed on a YouTube video, meant to reflect the contents of the video.

  • The comments under such misleading videos make it evident that its viewers believe the information shared in the video.

In this special investigation by Team WebQoof, we will tell about about some of the many channels on YouTube which masquerade as legitimate news channels, but spread falsehoods for views, so you can spot these channels and not fall for their misleading information.

Some of these channels operate as a business, demanding funding from its viewers to “support“ the channel. Essentially, they raise funds from the audience to spread fake news and mislead them.

In What Ways Does Misinformation Spread on YouTube?

In its investigation, Team WebQoof discovered the tactics these channels employ to attract the attention of the viewers. Then, when viewers start watching their videos or subscribe to the channel, they give them a dose of misinformation in the form of news.

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Tactic 1: A sensational thumbnail, which reflects something that is not in the news. Since the 2023 Cricket World Cup ended recently, lets try to understand it with an example of a claim related to cricketers.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

An archive of this video can be accessed here.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Now, the fact is that the confrontation between Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir that this thumbnail refers to, took place during a 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) match.

Gambhir had alleged that Kohli and his fellow players had misbehaved with Naveen-ul-Haq.

However, the fight was not a direct altercation between the the two cricketers, so the claim that the two argued is baseless.

In media interviews, Gambhir had openly addressed the argument, and none of his statements corroborate the statement in the thumbnail.

The YouTube channel which shared this false story is called YouNews Live, which has more than 2.8 lakh subscribers, and distorts real incidents to peddle misinformation.

YouNews Live also falsely claimed that Aftab, the accused in the Shraddha Walkar murder case, belonged to the Parsi community.

Not only this, they also attempted to forcibly establish a connection between industrialist Ratan Tata and the accused, by misrepresenting the latter's religion.

In reality, there is no connection between the two people.

We came across several other instances of misleading information on this channel. Some of the thumbnails for their videos carry edited images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

The thumbnail calls PM Modi a 'true Muslim scholar' and a 'fake Hindu'.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

YouNews Live attempts to build a false connection between Aftab and Ratan Tata.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Here is another example of a thumbnail being used to make misleading claims, where it says that the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has been implemented in India.

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This video, which makes the unfounded claims about UCC, surprisingly, has recorded over 10 lakh views. The channel which makes this claim is called 'Gaurav Thakur', and has a whopping 5.5 lakh subscribers.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

There is no official communication regarding the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

We observed that some videos on this channel tend to exaggerate real news events. While one video claims that amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel has declared that the beginning of the third World War, another says that the UCC has been implemented across India.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

Gaurav Thakur's YouTube channel makes false, exaggerated claims.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

Gaurav Thakur's YouTube channel makes false, exaggerated claims.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

With over 19 lakh subscribers, a channel called DLS uploaded a video with a thumbnail which indicated that the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has announced some strict new rules.

However, the video does not mention ANY new rules or laws, but only provides information on old, existing ones.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

All the rules mentioned in this video have been in place for over a year now.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Watch this video if you have ever considered 'fake news' to be true after seeing a misleading thumbnail or a misleading headline and avoid falling for this kind of misinformation.

Tactic 2: Presenting fabricated stories as news. This is another tactic which is used by YouTube channels to peddle misinformation. The biggest example of this, is the 'news' that President Draupadi Murmu issued an ultimatum to the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, asking for his resignation.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

There is no factual evidence to support any part of this claim.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

There are no credible report on any platform, website, or media organisation with any information which comes remotely close to claim.

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After the Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a notice to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a money laundering case related to the state's old excise policy, some channels used that information as a basis for publishing fake news.

A few have published videos claiming that following the notice, Kejriwal had surrendered to the ED, which is not true as of the writing of this story.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

OnlyNews 24x7 is another channel which spreads misinformation.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

These claims were found on the same channel mentioned earlier in this report, Only News 24x7. This channel has shared several posts with false or misleading claims, including one where they claimed that reservation has ended in India.

Here are a few examples from the channel.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

It made an unfounded claim about reservations in India.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

OnlyNews 24x7 published false information claiming that India is now a Hindu nation.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

The channel spread baseless information about Kejriwal being convicted.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Another channel, which has over 52,000 subscribers, called SM Headlines, publishes such baseless claims.

In 2022, the channel had claimed that 1,100 BJP leaders had quit the party before the 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

SM Headlines shared a fake story related to the 2022 Gujarat Assembly elections.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

On one hand we have misinformation related to Kejriwal surrendering to the ED, and on the other we have the false claim that former Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia had been released from judicial custody by the courts, who criticised the ED.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

Manish Sisodia has not been 'permanently released' from judicial custody.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

In addition to this, SM Headlines, too, demands money from its viewers in exchange for this kind of misinformation, another example of which is a video on this channel, which states that Kejriwal will lead the Opposition in the 2024 General elections.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

There is no evidence to back these claims by SM Headlines.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

There is no evidence to back these claims by SM Headlines.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

There is no evidence to back these claims by SM Headlines.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Tactic 3: Promoting conspiracy theories. These channels refuse to be left behind in promoting fabricated theories about historical figures and political leaders, which question their character without any evidence, be it Mahatma Gandhi (MK Gandhi) or former Congress president Sonia Gandhi's family.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

It was claimed, without evidence, that Rahul Gandhi came from a Muslim family.

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

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We came across another channel spreading conspiracy theories called 'Important knowledge and facts videos (NKV)'. This channel, which has 72,000 subscribers, shares short videos which claim to impart knowledge and share facts.

However, we found that the 'knowledge' shared in historical leaders' names was not backed by any evidence. For example, it shared a false statement misattributed to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which has been previously debunked by The Quint's WebQoof.

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

Nehru never said that he was 'Hindu by accident.'

(Source: YouTube/Screenshot)

Why Do Users Fall Into This Trap, and What Impact Does It Have?

Lets take a look at the comments under the videos of the channels we discussed. Doesn't it seem like the viewers believe that this information is true, and therefore, follow said channels?

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

Some comments under a video about President Murmu issuing an ultimatum for the CJI's resignation.

(Source: YouTube/Altered by The Quint)

The Quint's fact-checking team has investigated a few channels spreading lies on YouTube, some of which are verified

A few comments that were seen under a video about reservation ending.

(Source: YouTube/Altered by The Quint)

Regarding platforms that spread fake news, psychologist Shraddha Milak says, "Such platforms take advantage of the curiosity of common users about famous people. People are attracted to sensational news, which is why such news spreads more rapidly."

Not only this, but continuously considering misinformation as truth also negatively impacts mental health.

"Fake news can increase your anxiety. It can create a feeling of inadequacy in you and create a feeling of being disconnected from reality. Continuously believing in fabricated stories increases stress and you can also become a victim of depression. Especially in people who may not be so mentally healthy."
Shraddha Malik, Psychologist
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Many such channels spreading misinformation have also been verified by YouTube. So, we reached out to the platform to get their response.

Responding to our questions, YouTube said that it had invested heavily in policies and products to connect people to authoritative content and remove content that violates its Community Guidelines

The company added that it had removed more than 92K channels and 78K videos for violating these policies in the second quarter of 2023 for violating its misinformation policies. 

The statement added that they have a higher bar for content monetising and regularly blocking ads from videos that violate those guidelines. Responding to some videos flagged by The Quint's WebQoof team, YouTube said it had blocked ads on a video from YouNews Live for "violating their Advertiser Friendly Guidelines"

(This article was first published by Quint Hindi and has been translated.)

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9540511818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Fake News   Webqoof   Fact-Check 

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