The situation at the Delhi borders – Ghazipur, Tikri and Singhu – has been tense since the violence at the farmers’ rally on Republic Day. On Saturday, 30 January, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait told news agency ANI, that “the administration has removed basic facilities, including water and electricity supply.”
Following which, a Twitter account (@NareshTikaitBKU), claiming to be a BKU leader and Rakesh Tikait’s brother, Naresh Tikait, thanked Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for providing basic facilities at the Ghazipur site.
The CM fell for the fake account and replied to the user, stating that he and his party will continue to help the farmers’ agitation.
The Quint’s WebQoof team found that this account is impersonating the farmer leader while Naresh Tikait does not even have a Twitter account. However, it’s not the only one. Here’s what we found.
HOW DO WE KNOW ITS FAKE?
The account, which Kejriwal responded to, was created in April 2020 and has garnered over 19,100 followers.
Going through the responses on the account, we found that it existed with another username (@poonampanditji). In fact, several users have also referred to the user as ‘Poonam’ in their replies.
Further, we looked up @poonampanditji on Google, which showed results of a Twitter account, ‘Poonam Pandit Commentary,’ with the same handle. This account no longer exists on Twitter.
Going through the old tweets of @NareshTikaitBKU, we found that the account had uploaded pictures of Poonam Pandit, and regularly asks for retweets.
OTHER FAKE ACCOUNTS
Another account (@NareshTikait_), with a following as large as 56,500, was created in September 2017. However, it has tweets only from 28 January onwards, which indicates that the user had purged his timeline before that.
The Quint, too, had relied on a tweet by this account in its story, which was later removed, when we found out that the account is fake. The account regularly tweets updates on farmers’ protests and often calls for unity with undertones of violence.
We looked up the account’s Twitter ID (908323210470449153) and ran a search on Google.
We found that the same account had earlier impersonated CPI leader and former JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar and was called out by AAP’s social media team member, Kapil (@kapsology), back in 2017.
The link leads to the fake account (@NareshTikait_).
Further, a spokesperson of the BKU (Tikait) told The Quint’s WebQoof team that Naresh Tikait does not have any Twitter account.
“We will be filing an application very soon to shut down all these fake accounts of Rakesh Tikait and Naresh Tikait,” he added.
A search on Twitter reveals that several accounts have come up in the name of Naresh Tikait, with the same profile picture, misspelt names and bios, or a small number of followers.
Several accounts have been impersonating the two farmer leaders since Rakesh Tikait’s emotional outburst calling for support. While most of these accounts may not have large followings, impersonating a leader of the ongoing protests can lead to false attribution and spread misinformation.
(With inputs from SM Hoax Slayer.)