The year 2022 and the farrago of misinformation

The terms "misinformation," "disinformation," and "malinformation" have a unique place in the world of regular news. The dissemination of false information, which peaked during the COVID-19 epidemic, did not appear to be slowing down in 2022. This year has seen rampant exploitation of inaccurate and out-of-context material to further partisan political and social objectives. The year 2022 was also not immune to phishing activities, which resulted in the loss of money for many. The Mathrubhumi fact-check team effectively debunked many pieces of false information that spread through social media.

This is a sneak peek at the major fact-checks that the team has done this year.

Legislative assembly elections and disinformation campaigns

Legislative assembly elections in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Gujarat were held this year. These elections witnessed the wrath of political enmity in the form of disinformation. A video of booth capture went viral on social media during these elections. The same video was circulated twice - during the elections in UP and Gujarat. The allegations that accompanied it accused the BJP of booth capture and linked it to the party's success in these elections. The truth is that this incident occurred in West Bengal, and the perpetrators were allegedly Trinamool Congress members, not BJP cadres.

Ukraine war and blast of misinformation

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a turning point in international politics and the arena of fact-checking. Both sides of the conflict spread misinformation from the very beginning. Due to this, news organisations across the world found it very difficult to filter information coming out of the war zone. A video of some warplanes flying above a city was one of the videos that was viral during that period. Many news outlets even believed it to be original and included it in their news broadcasts. Actually, the video was of a military parade that happened in Moscow in 2020.

Islamophobia and social media in 2022

Islamophobic misinformation had not witnessed any decline in 2022. An image of a Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) drivergott viral on Facebook and Twitter with the claim that he was wearing religious attire during duty time. The driver’s attire looked like a traditional thobe worn by Muslim men along with an Islamic cap. A furore broke out on social media, and an online mob attack was carried out against KSRTC. In reality, the driver was wearing a full-sleeve shirt and had laid a washcloth over his lap, which made it look like he was wearing a thobe.

The news of a Shivaling being sighted inside the Gyanvapi mosque also caused a tsunami of false information. Some people even spread an image of a temple with the claim that it was converted into a mosque. But the truth turned out to be bitter for them. The temple in the image was not a Hindu temple but a Jain temple situated in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan. It was neither converted into a mosque.

Iranian hijab row

The alleged custodial death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian girl, resulted in widespread protests against the theocratic establishment of Iran. People from all over the world showed their support for the protests. Many showed their sympathy for the deceased through social media and Mahsa "became the global symbol of freedom." But the sympathy and solidarity of some went out of hand, causing the spread of false information. A video of a person dancing near a grave spread like wildfire across the globe during this period. Many claimed that the person was the father of a girl who died during the protests. In fact, the video had nothing to do with Iran or the protests. It was a visual from the Azerbaijani fiction series Ata Ocagi.

Phishing is still a menace

The prevalence of phishing attacks remained unchanged in 2022. Phishers have found several ways to thrive. To deceive the general public, a combination of traditional and contemporary methods was used. People received phishing URLs via SMS and WhatsApp under the guise of well-known companies like Indian Oil Corporation, Amazon, the State Bank of India, etc. Job offers were utilised as a lure by some phishers. Social media was used to advertise job opportunities in the names of Nataraj pencils and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Many consumers accepted these offers and it led to theft of personal information and financial loss.

As people's awareness of online fraud increased, scammers turned to an old technique. Customers of some reputed online shopping websites started to receive registered emails with scratch cards. Those who got these cards were startled to know that they had won lakhs of rupees as a gift. However, one must provide all bank information and a small sum of money in order to receive the reward money. Respected businesses had released press statements denouncing these fraudulent actions.

Dog meat seized in Alappuzha

A Whatsapp message that went viral scared off food lovers in Kerala. The message accompanying some pictures claimed that dog meat was seized from a hotel in Alappuzha during a raid. But the authorities of Alappuzha municipality knew nothing about such a raid and the subsequent discovery of dog meat in their jurisdiction. The message was completely made up. It was made up of several unrelated images from Iran, Thailand, and Kolkata.

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