This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com
What is this?This newsletter aims to track information disorder largely from an Indian perspective. It will also look at some global campaigns and research
What this is not?A fact-check newsletter. There are organisations like Altnews, Boomlive etc who already do some great work. It may feature some of their fact-checks periodically
Of Engagement, New Accounts in New Kashmir, the Mainland and Around the world
This edition may be shorter than usual since I was forced to spend most of the week away from screens and couldn’t spend as much time on research as I would have wanted.
Welcome to Edition #12 of MisDisMal-Information.
To Engage or Not to Engage?
I spend a lot an awful lot of time going on and on about amplification. From some of my past rants, it might seem that there choosing to engage in such situations is a simple binary choice. Today, I want to demonstrate that it isn’t.
- Pragya Thakur and chanting COVID-19 away. Surely the BJP MP isn’t the only one wishing the pandemic away, but this case is actually quite interesting. She released a video, coinciding with an impending locking in Bhopal, calling on people to recite a particular holy verse for 5 days as part of the fight against COVID-19
आइए हम सब मिलकर कोरोना महामारी को समाप्त करने के लिए लोगों के अच्छे स्वास्थ्य की कामना के लिए एक आध्यात्मिक प्रयास करें आज25 से 5 अगस्त तक प्रतिदिन शाम 7:00 बजे अपने घरों में हनुमान चालीसा का 5 बार पाठकरें5 अगस्त को अनुष्ठान का रामलला की आरती के साथ घरों में दीप जलाकर समापन करें
- Now if you recall that she also suggested that drinking cow urine would cure cancer, it is not hard to understand why this was met with ridicule.
- Correcting medical misinformation is extremely important, especially when we’ve witnessed first-hand the dangers of it in the midst of a pandemic, so this claim needed to be addresed. While wrapping up though, she does say (rough translation) “this is our prayer to God …”. I raise that, because ignoring this part of the video paved the way for the MP and her supporters to play the victim (see this post by OpIndia. So it simultaneously brings up the question of how much and what kind of attention such statements/claims should be accorded.
- A twitter handle that goes by Squint Neon made the claim that Deepika Padukone was paid INR 5 Crore to attend a JNU protest in the aftermath. He also tagged Swara Bhaskar in the tweet shot down the claim.
- Important as it is to call out such dubious claims, look at the engagement with that tweet as per Hoaxy.
- This tweet is now among the accounts top liked and retweeted ones. It is, of course, impossible to put a number on how much of this engagement was a result of that quote tweet, but it certainly played a part when you consider that Ms. Bhaskar has over 40x the number of followers.
Thanks for splainin’
- Breitbart put out a video of a group of doctors claiming that HCL is a “cure of COVID”. Kevin Roose, who makes great use of Crowdtangle, was quick to latch on to this.
The #2 most-engaged post on Facebook today is a Breitbart video of a group of doctors claiming that hydroxychloroquine is “a cure for Covid” and “you don’t need a mask.” 14 million views in 6 hours. (For scale, Plandemic got ~8 million in a few days.)
- And while Facebook did take it down, the lessons of Plandemic should remind us how difficult it is to actually ensure such content stays offline. It should also worry us that it got 2x the amount of engagement that the former got over days, in just a few hours.
- One of the doctors involved had her video retweeted by Donald Trump and shared by Donald Trump Jr. The latter even his account locked for 12 hours by Twitter, while the original tweet itself was also removed from the platform. Brandy Zadrozy and Ben Collins suspect a coordinated push is behind the virality of the video.
- Oh and one of the doctors involved (the same one whose tweets were removed) is seemingly loving the attention.
- Even Madonna got in on it. 🤦♂️
Madonna posted the video of Dr. Stella Immanuel, the physician who falsely stated that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for Covid-19 and that masks don’t help to reduce transmission In her caption, Madonna says the so-called “Demon Sperm” Doctor is her hero IG has flagged the post
Flying over the context
- To close this section out, let’s go over to Kashmir. A twitter user claimed that first pilot to fly the Rafale jets that arrived in India last week was from Kashmir.
- This claim would eventually be fact-checked, however as a result of a tagging some prominent names in the thread, some of them did amplify it.
- I should point out that this tweet itself is not inaccurate, the person in the photo is identified correctly, but this tweet is preceded by the one with the false claim (in which Barkha Dutt was tagged too). Something that’s easy to miss, but causes information pollution nevertheless.