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Dead man alive: Republic’s coverage of a coronavirus patient from MP gets several facts wrong
Pooja Chaudhuri
14th April 2020
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Pooja ChaudhuriPooja_Chaudhuri
During an April 8 broadcast, in the usual Republic Bharat mannerism, channel anchors Shweta Shrivastav and Shweta Tripathi yelled a piece of ‘breaking news’ into television screens. As the camera shifted focus from Shrivastav on the top floor of the studio to Tripathi on the ground, viewers were told that eight family members associated with Tablighi Jamaat tested positive for coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone.
The anchors contacted channel correspondent Satyavijay for further details. He blamed Noor Mohammad for spreading the infection to his family and claimed that Mohammad had visited Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi after returning from a foreign trip. He subsequently came back to Khargone where he did not inform local authorities that he showed symptoms for COVID-19, added Satyavijay further stating that Noor Mohammad died on March 28. He also said that Mohammad’s mother passed away. “Jamaat is the root of coronavirus cases in Madhya Pradesh,” declared the channel correspondent adding, “Had Noor Mohammad informed on time, he would have perhaps been kept in isolation.”
Shrivatsav concurred with Satyavijay’s opinion and termed members of Tablighi Jamaat “shameless” – a word that was continually flashed on TV screens along with similar words such as ‘badtameez (ill-mannered)’, ‘behudi (stupidity)’ and ‘besharam jamaati (shameless jamaati)’.


ANI tweeted on the case on April 8. The news agency quoted Khargone district magistrate Gopal Chandra Dad as saying, “The attendee and his mother died due to the disease.”

ANI
✔@ANI


Eight members of a family have tested positive in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh as they came in contact with an infected member who attended Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi last month. The attendee & his mother have died due to the disease: District Magistrate GC Dad
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FACT-CHECK
While Noor Mohammad indeed visited Nizamuddin Markaz after a foreign trip (South Africa) and later returned to Khargone, he is not dead. Alt News spoke with Mohammad who informed that he and his wife returned to Khargone on March 21 and his entire family was examined by district health officials in their residence on March 24. “I had an on-and-off fever since the day I began travelling back to MP from Delhi. I had informed the health officials about my trip to South Africa which they were already aware of since the local administration had kept a list of all people with a history of foreign travel.” None of the family members was admitted to the hospital at the time since they did not run a fever. “My fever wasn’t continuous and it used to act up at night. It is possible that my temperature was recorded normal as the health officials had visited during the day,” said Mohammad adding that he was advised to home-quarantine.
It is worthwhile to note that testing strategies have been evolving in the country as the disease is progressing. According to earlier guidelines by the Ministry of Health, testing was mostly limited to symptomatic people with a travel history or close contacts of positive cases. This explains why health officials were more concerned about Mohammad’s trip to South Africa. His visit to Nizamuddin was of little consequence on March 24 when the area was not identified as a hotspot.
On March 31, reports came pouring in about a cluster of cases from the Tablighi Jamaat event held last month. “I contacted the doctors again and told them that I’m coming down to the hospital with my wife,” said Mohammad. District Magistrate Gopal Chandra Dad also informed Alt News that Mohammad had visited the district hospital on March 31, after the news about Nizamuddin Markaz broke out. This is when the couple’s samples were collected and they were admitted to the hospital.
“Their results came out on April 4. Noor Mohammad tested positive while his wife tested negative,” informed Mohammad’s nephew Yasir Pathan.
Below is a circular by the district administration which was issued after Mohammad and another patient from Khargone, Lalit Patidar, was tested positive on April 4. The circular informs that both their residences are epicentres and areas within 3 km radium are to be regarded as containment areas.

On April 9, Mohammad’s nephew Pathan filed a complaint with Khargone police on Republic Bharat’s misreport that Mohammad had passed away due to the infection on March 28.

“Mohammad was transferred to Indore’s MRTB Hospital on April 4 where he was kept till April 11. He was discharged on April 12 after he tested negative twice,” said Pathan who sent us a video recorded by Mohammad from the hospital after he heard that rumours of his death were floating in the media.

Dainik Bhaskar had reported about Mohammad’s discharge on April 13. A video was recorded at the time of his discharge where Mohammad can be heard saying that he has fully recovered.

Seven recovered coronavirus patients were discharged from MRTB Hospital on April 12. Indore Commissioner posted about the recovery and also shared a photograph of the discharged patients. The man in a yellow kurta is Noor Mohammad.

Indore [email protected]


इंदौर में #COVID19 से पीड़ित मरीजों के स्वस्थ होने का सिलसिला जारी है।इंदौर में आज7और मरीज कोरोना वायरस को परास्त कर घर को लौट गये हैं।स्वस्थ होनेके पश्चात अस्पताल से निकलते सेही इन सभी मरीजों ने करतल ध्वनिसे खुशी का इजहार किया।
Read More:-https://www.facebook.com/369866696756385/posts/817692295307154/ …#coronasurvivors
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It is noteworthy that eight members of Mohammad’s family had tested positive for coronavirus. Below is their test result which was released was April 7. Among them is Kharshid Bee, Mohammad’s 70-year-old mother, who passed away on April 4. Pathan said that she suffered a stroke at home. The same was reported by Dainik Bhaskar on April 5. However, DM Gopal Chandra Das said that the local administration is regarding her demise as a coronavirus death since she was tested positive after she passed away.

The broadcast that should have been
Noor Mohammad has been staying at the Khargone isolation ward since his discharge from MRTB Hospital, Indore. Mohammad told us that he landed in Delhi from South Africa on the morning of March 19. He claimed that he was asked to fill out two forms at Delhi airport which were essentially a questionnaire inquiring about his health. “The form had questions like ‘Do you have a fever?’, ‘Do you have a cough and cold?’ I was perfectly fine at the time so marked ‘no’ in all places. I wasn’t examined,” he said. When asked if he was advised home isolation at the airport he replied in the negative.
Mohammad and his wife left for Madhya Pradesh on March 20. They boarded a night train from Delhi and this was when he first began feeling sick. “I thought that it was perhaps because of the hectic journey. I took a tablet for fever,” Mohammad told us. The couple reached Indore at noon on March 21 and finally arrived at Khargone after a three-hour bus journey.
None of these essential details was a part of Republic Bharat’s broadcast.
The channel accused Mohammad of hiding his travel history to Nizamuddin and declared that he died on March 28. This itself is bizarre. Nizamuddin emerged as a coronavirus hotspot only on March 31.
Noor Mohammad’s story was grossly trivialised by Republic Bharat for mass consumption. We use the word ‘trivialised’ because the case was not given the needed coverage that could have helped local authorities in contact tracing.
According to Dainik Bhaskar, Mohammad and his wife were on a religious tour since January. Their trip was planned before coronavirus was declared a crisis by the central government.
End January: Mohammad and his wife went to Mumbai to attend a Jamaat meet.
February: The couple left for a religious tour In South Africa for close to 45 days.
March 19: Noor Mohammad and his wife travel from South Africa to Delhi.
March 20: The couple spend the day in Delhi where they visit Nizamuddin Markaz and board a train to Indore at night. Mohammed informed us that he had started feeling under the weather during the journey.
March 21: They reach Indore at noon and take a three-hour bus to Khargone.
March 22: Mohammad was experiencing an on-and-off fever. His nephew Yasir Pathan told us that Mohammad also had a slight cough. Mohammad visited a general physician who gave him medicines for fever.
March 24: Health officials visited Mohammad’s residence. The entire family’s temperature was checked and none of them had a fever. Mohammad was asked to self-quarantine.
March 31: Upon hearing the news of Nizamuddin recognised as a COVID-19 hotspot, Mohammad and his wife visited the district hospital where their samples were collected and they were admitted.
April 4: Mohammad tested positive for coronavirus while his wife tested negative. Mohammad was transferred to MRTB Hospital, Indore. The same day his mother died of a stroke.
April 7: Eight family members including Mohammad’s mother test positive for coronavirus.
April 12: Mohammad was discharged from MRTB Hospital after testing negative twice.
April 13: He has since been quarantined at the Khargon district hospital.
Conclusion
Republic Bharat’s broadcast was erroneous (to put it lightly) on multiple counts. The channel first claimed that Noor Mohammad died which is obviously untrue because we spoke with him on the phone. It further said that Mohammad concealed his travel history. This too is false. When Mohammad landed at Delhi international airport, he filled out a self-declaration form. Alt News verified the questions in the form as mentioned by Mohammad with copies of the form uploaded online by others. Mohammad was not screened at the airport because he did not show symptoms for coronavirus. After returning to Khargone, Mohammad and his entire family were examined by medical officers on March 24. The officers visited his residence because they were aware of his foreign trip. No one from the family was admitted, including Mohammad’s parents aged 70 plus, as their temperatures were normal. On March 31, when Nizamuddin was identified as a COVID-19 hotspot, Mohammad and his wife went to the district hospital where their samples were collected and they were admitted. None of the other family members was given a test. On April 4, Mohammad tested positive and his wife tested negative. Mohammad was shifted to Indore. His elderly mother passed away the same day. Samples of eight family members, including the mother, were subsequently collected. On April 7, all of them tested positive.
Mohammad followed all the required protocol – self-declaration at the airport, cooperation with medical workers during the home visit and declaration of his visit to the Markaz after it emerged as a hotspot. Who should be truly blamed then?


Dead man alive: Republic’s coverage of a coronavirus patient from MP gets several facts wrong - Alt News
 
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Media misreport: Tablighi Jamaat members defecate in open after being refused non-veg food
Jignesh Patel
7th April 2020
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Jignesh Patelthisisjignesh
On April 4, Hindi daily Amar Ujala published an article with the headline, “क्वारंटीन वार्ड में भर्ती जमातियों ने मांगा मांसाहारी भोजन, नहीं देने पर खाना फेंका, फिर खुले में किया शौच (‘Jamaatis’ admitted in the quarantine ward ask for non-veg food, throw the food [they were served], defecate in the open). The report claimed that the incident happened in quarantine centres in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Delhi’s Nizamuddin was identified as a coronavirus hotspot after several members of Tablighi Jamaat tested positive. They had all attended a meet in mid-March in Nizamuddin Markaz. Since then, governments across states are trying to contact trace attendees for quarantine and testing.
“SDM SN Sharma informed that Jamaatis from different regions were kept in the quarantine ward set up at Jain inter college. [We were] informed that when the Jamaatis were given the food, they threw it and demanded non-vegetarian food. When their demands weren’t completed, they defecated in the open,” stated the report.
The article shared from Amar Ujala’s official Facebook page garnered close to 4,800 shares.

Another prominent daily Patrika reported along similar lines: “Non-veg food isn’t served in quarantine centre but jamaatis had asked for non-veg food. When they didn’t get non-veg food, they threw the ‘pure protein-rich’ food. Not just that, there is an allegation against the jamaatis for defecating in the open.”

Interestingly, this article also quoted [Rampur Maniharan] station in-charge who said that according to their primary investigation, members of Tablighi Jamaat had thrown leftovers behind the building. However, reports of open defecation are yet to be confirmed, the cop was further quoted. The article is no longer available on Patrika’s website and the link to the article now redirects to the website’s homepage.
False reporting
Saharanpur police investigated the claims about members of Tablighi Jamaat defecating in the open when they weren’t served non-veg food as per their demands. The police found the report to be untrue.

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The police informed that SHO Rampur Maniharan was directed to lead the probe and he found that the claims propagated on social media, newspapers and news channels were completely false.
In conclusion, two national dailies amplified an unsubstantiated allegation at a time when misinformation against Tablighi Jamaat is widespread. Alt News has been debunking unrelated videos shared to falsely claim that attendees spat on policemen and sneezed inside Nizamuddin mosque.



Media misreport: Tablighi Jamaat members defecate in open after being refused non-veg food - Alt News
 

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India TV uses 2017 video to falsely claim Islamic preacher provoked Jamaatis to ‘spit’
Pooja Chaudhuri
16th April 2020
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Pooja ChaudhuriPooja_Chaudhuri
The narrative around coronavirus pandemic has taken a turn for the worse in India with a majority of social media users and mainstream media outlets not only pinning the blame on the Muslim community but also accusing it of intentionally spreading the infection. Since Nizamuddin Markaz was identified as a COVID-19 hotspot, Alt News has been inundated with random ‘spitting’ and ‘sneezing’ videos shared with a false Muslim angle.
In an April 11 broadcast, India TV praised the government for working “24×7” to fight the virus outbreak. However, the channel claimed that the efforts are being derailed because of the weakest link i.e., Tablighi Jamaat. “There is another big accusation against the Jamaat – of spitting. Where did they catch the disease of spitting? Which Mulana gave them the symptoms of the virus, India TV has investigated,” said the anchor during the show.
The channel subsequently played a video of an Islamic preacher saying – “To save yourself from the clutches of demons, read the Surah Al-Ikhlas and spit thrice on the left-hand side” – and paused before he was finished. The music playing in the background would put even directors of Hindi soap operas to shame. “If you do not believe what you saw and heard, watch again and hear with your ears wide open so that no confusion is left.” The video is played for a second time and the anchor goes on the ask questions that would sound ridiculous to the sane mind – “Why do Jamaatis spit?” He further says that there have been reports of Jamaatis spitting on doctors and nurses in isolation wards. The anchor introduces the preacher as Faiz Syed and asks, “Does religion teaches to spit on doctors and nurses?”

Throughout the show, the channel attempt to blame a certain ‘maulana’ for the spread of coronavirus. Below is one example of the many obnoxious questions flashed by India TV – “Which maulana’s brainchild is Jamaat’s coronavirus symptoms?”

FACT-CHECK
The video played by India TV is three years old. It was shared by the YouTube channel IRC TV on October 25, 2017. Faiz Syed is an Islamic preacher and the founder of Islamic Research Centre (IRC).



The video is titled, “Agar Kisi Ko Allah Ki Zaat Par Waswasa – Whispers Aaye To Kya Kare By Adv. Faiz Syed”. This translates to – “What should one do when they get whispers (evil or negative thoughts) about the existence of Allah.”
In his speech, Faiz Syed first quotes a hadith (sayings of Prophet Mohammad) and advises on what to do if their minds are riddled with evil thoughts on the existence of Allah. He asks people to recite from the Surah Al-Ikhlas (112th chapter of the Quran) – “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent” – and spit three times on the left-hand side.
Syed then refers to another hadith which talks about warding off evil thoughts (Shaitan) during prayers. The book ‘Waswasah: The Whispering of the Shaitan’ says that the Prophet was once asked by his companion: “O Messenger of Allah, Satan intervenes between me and my prayer and he confounds me,” to which the Prophet replied, “That is the doing of the Satan who is known as khinzab; when you perceive its effect, seek refuge with Allah from it, and spit three times to your left.”
Alt News spoke with an Islamic scholar who explained that the ‘spitting’ is not literal ejection of saliva but a gesture. “When evil thoughts come to one’s mind during prayers or meditation, they recite the Surah Al-Ikhlas and make a gesture of spitting on the left side – either say thoo thrice or spit out air. This is a psychological way of believing that after taking Allah’s name, the act of ‘spitting’ ejects the Shaitan out of the body.”
Therefore, Syed quoted hadith and portions from the Quran in his speech to give advice on how to rid one’s mind of negative thoughts that may either cause one to question Allah’s origin or obstruct one from remembering God. At no point in his speech did he ask people to spit on others.
India TV dug up a three-year-old video of the Islamic preacher and falsely claimed that he was advocating the spread of coronavirus by spitting. The channel did not inform its users that a day before its broadcast was aired, Syed had uploaded another video where he is saying that intentional spitting to spread the virus is a sin. He also advises people to follow government guidelines and maintain social distancing.



Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi was identified as a coronavirus hotspot on March 31. Soon after, reports came pouring in that members of Tablighi Jamaat are spitting and misbehaving with medical workers in quarantine wards. Several reports also claimed that they defecated in the open after being refused non-vegetarian food. Despite no visual evidence and the claims debunked by local authorities, channels have continually been promoting the anti-Muslim narrative. Belgavi Commission of Police clarified that no person quarantined in the district facility has either spat or misbehaved with health workers. AIIMS Raipur also tweeted that rumours about a patient form Tablighi Jamaat spitting on doctors are untrue. Saharanpur police took to Twitter to call-out false reports by Amar Ujala and Patrika that Markaz attendees defecated in the open.
Alt News has also been debunking several old and unrelated videos widely shared on social media to claim that members of the Muslim community have been intentionally spitting to spread the virus. However, mainstream media has now emerged as the main promoter of this dangerous piece of misinformation. The visibly hateful broadcasts and reports have manifested into common people hounding and assaulting Muslim vendors on the road. There have also been calls to boycott the community and not purchase any items from their shops.
[Update: India TV deleted its broadcast after this fact-check was published. A link of the downloaded broadcast has been added.]


India TV uses 2017 video to falsely claim Islamic preacher provoked Jamaatis to 'spit' - Alt News
 

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Fact-check: TV9’s exclusive report on a ‘secret underground tunnel’ in Nizamuddin Markaz
Pooja ChaudhuriMohammed Zubair
2nd May 2020
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Pooja ChaudhuriPooja_Chaudhuri
Mohammed Zubair
Mohammed Zubairzoo_bear
The novel coronavirus outbreak has cost lakhs of lives worldwide. However, as countries across the globe observe lockdowns to flatten the curve and scientists look for a cure, normalcy doesn’t seem beyond belief. It is bound to return sooner or later. But can the same be said about television news in India? The past few weeks have pushed the national discourse further into bleakness. Television news, hardly in the bounds of journalism, has shaped itself as a counterpart of social media – more inclined to carry propaganda than present facts.
On April 18, TV9 Bharatvarsh aired an ‘exclusive’ report on what the channel deemed valuable information for its audience. “Maulana Saad’s secret underground tunnel discovered in Nizamuddin Markaz” was the topic for the day. Maulana Saad is the head of the Nizamuddin Markaz faction of the Tablighi Jamaat. The Delhi police had filed an FIR against the Islamic preacher on March 31 under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act for holding a religious congregation in mid-March.


‘Representational’ video
TV9 reported that a 200-metre underground tunnel connects the Nizamuddin Markaz complex to Saad’s room. The tunnel gives him access to the entire complex – Lal Mahal, Baglewali masjid and Ghalib road, the channel claimed. Correspondent Manish Jha reported that the tunnel is close to 500 metres from the Nizamuddin police station and could only be accessed by Saad, his sons and close associates. He said that he found out about the tunnel from people close to Saad. During the show, images of the tunnel were flashed which the anchors claimed were shot by TV9, yet the footage carried the words ‘सांकेतिक वीडियो’ meaning ‘representational video’ and the same was also repeated twice during the show.

If the footage aired by the channel was representational, all that the viewers really know about this ‘tunnel’ is through an animated map. The broadcast carries no statements from either a member of Tablighi Jamaat, an official of the Nizamuddin Markaz or the police. TV9 used hyperbole to sow seeds of doubt without giving concrete evidence (or any evidence for that matter) on the existence of a tunnel. It said that Saad has transformed from ‘corona master’ to ‘criminal master’. What criminal activities were exactly carried out from this tunnel, the channel doesn’t say.
Footage of video game
A reverse-image search of one of the representational graphic of the tunnel reveals that it has been picked up from the video game ‘Hills Legend: Action Horror’. The game is available on Google Play Store.

[Tip: When you want to reverse-search a photograph with heavy text or image overlap, crop them out as much as possible. In the above case, we cropped the correspondent and reverse-searched the frame on Yandex.]
At a later point in the broadcast, TV9 aired another symbolic image of the tunnel. This was found on a Romanian website.
The channel does clarify during the show that the graphics used are representational (except at 3:46 when the anchors say that the footage was recorded on channel cameras). The above exercise is only an effort to show that all ‘evidence’ of the tunnel was either picked up from the internet or manufactured.
Does a secret tunnel exist in Nizamuddin Markaz?
Well…no.
TV9 claimed that as soon as one enters the Markaz, a staircase can be spotted on the left and the path on the other side leads to the kitchen. “Just beside the kitchen, a lane goes up to the basement where Maulana Saad’s secret tunnel is placed. This tunnel is 200 metres in length…Maulana Saad’s personal room is located in such a perfect place that he can reach any corner using the tunnel. He can travel through the entire complex of the Markaz – Lal Mahal, Markazi Masjid and Ghalib road.”

Where is Maulana Saad’s room?
In the animated map above, TV9 placed Saad’s room adjacent to Banglewali Masjid, also known as Nizamuddin Markaz. However, “Saad’s room is inside the Markaz, it is not a separate building,” an official of the Markaz informed Alt News.
Perhaps the one aspect that the channel accurately covered in its broadcast is a staircase on the left just after the main entrance of the Markaz building. The staircase leads up to the masjid hall (prayer room) on the first floor. Saad’s room is attached to this hall, and beyond the room is his residence. Both are a part of the Markaz building.

The video below shows the location of the room. If one walks across to the other side of the masjid hall, a hoarding of Ghalib Academy (written in Urdu) can be spotted. Notice the elevation of the hall with the hoarding as the vantage point. It is clearly not on the ground level, confirming that Saad’s room is on the first floor.

The Markaz official narrates in the video that Saad has direct access to the masjid because of the room which also connects to his residence. In the absence of the room, Saad would have to travel all the way through Ghalib road and Darga road to get to Markaz building. This also raises an interesting question – if the room gives Saad direct access to the Markaz building, why would he need a tunnel?
The ‘tunnel’
TV9 claimed that a tunnel runs through the Markaz complex till the Lal Mahal area. Below is a Google map depiction of the area where the tunnel is claimed to be located. As per TV9, the tunnel starts from Bairoon wali building on Darga road, goes beyond the Markaz complex and connect to the Lal Mahal area on Ghalib road.

However, this is what TV9 did in its broadcast – the channel declared the ground floor of the Markaz building as an ‘underground tunnel’.
Let’s see how.
The ground floor is a large space that connects to different parts of the building. It starts from the entrance gates and runs till the extreme end of the building where the kitchen is located. This pathway was declared as the tunnel by TV9.

Once you enter the Markaz building via any of the three gates (marked G1, G2 and G3 on the map below), there are three flights of stairs. The one on the left of the pathway takes you up to the mosque on the first floor (same area where Saad’s room is located). Out of the two other staircases, which are on the right of the pathway, one connects to the eating area in the basement and second leads to Bairoon wali building on the first floor. A little further on the left of the pathway, there is a wheelchair ramp that also connects to the mosque. At the extreme end of the pathway are the kitchen and power cabin. Near the kitchen, another flight of stairs goes to the basement.

The only underground area is the basement. However, this an enclosed space. It has only two points of entry and exit – one near the kitchen and another near G2. Alt News has corroborated from multiple sources that the basement is used for serving food. There is no direct access from Saad’s room to the basement. He would have to come down to the ground floor to get here.

During the broadcast, TV9 also claimed that the tunnel goes up till Lal Mahal area. But there is a physical boundary after the kitchen/ power room. That is the end of the building. There is no way to get to the other side unless you’re Kitty Pryde from the X-Men.
In the video below, the Markaz official gives a tour of the ground floor and the basement.

To sum it up, TV9 claimed that a tunnel starting from Bairoon wali building connects to Lal Mahal area through the Markaz building. The channel also said that Saad has direct access to this tunnel via his room. Firstly, Bairoon wali building is not separate property. It is situated on the first floor of the Markaz building. Secondly, Saad’s room is also on the first floor on the other side of the building, attached to the mosque. The area which was being projected as a secret underground tunnel is actually the ground floor. The only thing situated underground is the eating area in the basement which isn’t hidden from the public eye. It can be spotted immediately upon entering the Markaz building and has only two entry-exit points – one near the Markaz entry gate and another near the kitchen on the far end of the ground floor. Lastly, it is impossible to travel from the Markaz building to the Lal Mahal area unless one can phase through walls.
TV9 flashes photographs of Lucknow Markaz
At several points during the ‘exclusive breaking news’, TV9 showed photographs of what it claimed to be Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz. Below is a screenshot where a hoarding of a cyber cafe – ‘Star Business Centre’ – is visible (marked in green) on the ground floor of a building.

As it turns out, this building is the Markaz Masjid in Lucknow’s Aminabad. Here is the Google map location of Star Business Centre. Below is an image of the mosque available on Google maps juxtaposed with a screenshot of the building flashed by TV9. The cyber cafe has been highlighted in green and an air conditioner just beside the hoarding has been highlighted using a blue arrow.

We have also compared Nizamuddin Markaz and Lucknow Markaz to show the dissimilarities between the buildings. Both images in the collage below have been taken from Google maps.

TV9 therefore aired a flimsy ‘exclusive’ report with no evidence to support the claim that Maulana Saad has been using an ‘underground tunnel’ for years to carry out secret tasks.
It is pertinent to note that mainstream media has been shaping public opinion using misleading reports and misinformation since Nizamuddin Markaz was identified as a hotspot. Earlier, Republic Bharat aired a broadcast claiming that a Markaz attendee from Madhya Pradesh hid his travel history from local authorities and subsequently died of Covid-19. The man, however, is alive and did not conceal his visit to Nizamuddin. India TV blamed a maulana for teaching Jamaatis ‘how to spit’ to spread the virus. The channel had picked up a three-year-old video to make the assertion and later took down its broadcast after our fact-check report was published. Kannada channel Public TV published a false report of Muslim youths in Karnataka refusing to get tested for religious reasons. The list is endless.
It is one thing for misinformation to circulate on social media but the same does irrepressible damage when promoted by mainstream media. Without showing any evidence of a tunnel inside Nizamuddin Markaz, viewers are informed about the tunnel’s existence only through a ‘representational video’ and photographs of Lucknow Markaz. The channel did not air actual footage of the property as shown in this fact-check report. The area which was referred to as an ‘underground tunnel’ by TV9 is actually the ground floor of the building.


Fact-check: TV9's exclusive report on a 'secret underground tunnel' in Nizamuddin Markaz - Alt News
 
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Unrelated image, pornographic photo shared to target JMI scholar Safoora Zargar
Pooja Chaudhuri
6th May 2020
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Pooja ChaudhuriPooja_Chaudhuri
The arrest of Jamia scholar Safoora Zargar has given rise to the usual misogyny and vulgar remarks that any vocal woman has to routinely face on social media. Zargar is an expectant mother – a detail that would rouse sympathies under normal circumstances. Instead, her pregnancy is the reason for the derogatory messages. Alt News had earlier debunked a viral claim suggesting that Zargar is unmarried. Notwithstanding how a woman chooses to conceive, Zargar has been married for almost two years and was pregnant at the time of her imprisonment. She was a part of the protests against the Citizenship law and was booked by the Delhi police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.
Now, a photograph of an anti-CAA protester is viral with claims hinting that she is Zargar. The woman has the words ‘F*** Hindu Rashtra’ imprinted on her cheek. Squint Neon @TheSquind, a handle that regularly shares misinformation, tweeted the image writing, “She got pregnant after that?” (archive)

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A Facebook user Apurba Deka similarly wrote, “She Wrote “Fcuk Hindurasthra” on her cheek and now we wanna know, whether Hindurasthra impregnated her?” He identified the woman as Zargar.

Facebook page Sarcasm-O-Pedia II also shared the image. “वो धरने.. वो धरने की रात सुहानी थी, मिलने वाली बिरयानी थी। कोई इसी बहाने खेल गया और 500₹ देके पेल गया।” reads the caption in Hindi which translates to – “That night, that night of the protest was beautiful. We were going to get biryani. Using this as an excuse, someone gave Rs 500 and fooled me.” (archive)
A similar claim is floating on Instagram. A collage of images has been created which also includes a photograph of a couple having intercourse behind a fence. Below is a post by the page ‘the_sanatani_sher’ (archive). Another page ‘f***_secular_india’ shared the same photo montage (archive).
Fact-check
Image 1

The woman whose cheek is painted with an anti-CAA slogan is not Safoora Zargar. She is a student at Delhi University. Zargar is a scholar at Jamia Milia Islamia.
Alt News is refraining from disclosing the student’s name to protect her identity. The photograph had attracted a lot of hate and derogatory remarks when it was earlier viral in January.
Image 2
The photograph of a couple having sex behind a fence is a screenshot from an old pornographic video which was debunked by Alt News in March. At the time, several users had shared the clip claiming it was shot in Shaheen Bagh.
Alt News found that the video was uploaded on random portals and porn websites. Below is a screenshot of an Arabic website where the video was uploaded in July 2018. Protests in Shaheen Bagh began in December 2019.

Therefore, an unrelated image and a screengrab of pornographic video are circulating with false claims targeting JMI scholar Safoora Zargar.


Unrelated image, pornographic photo shared to target JMI scholar Safoora Zargar - Alt News
 

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Viral audio clip blaming Kejriwal for exodus of migrants workers falsely attributed to Harish Salve
Archit Mehta
8th April 2020
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Archit MehtaArchitMeta
On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21-day nationwide lockdown, barring essential services, to contain coronavirus. As a result, lakhs of migrant labours across India began walking hundreds of miles to their villages due to lack of transportation. Some of the early reports were published by The Caravan, The Wire, The New York Times and Quartz.
Recently, a 4-minute audio clip attributed to senior Supreme Court advocate Harish Salve is floating online. Here, a man speaks ferociously and blames Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for the exodus of migrant labours from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The clip has been uploaded by several users on YouTube and Facebook.



Since Twitter has a limit of 2:20 minutes, users have uploaded the clip in two parts (part 1 and part 2) asking for clarification if it is true or not.
The transcript of the viral audio reads, “Don’t you have shame in giving an impression, in which you are appealing to the people, not to leave Delhi. But the fact is your administration had cut food and electricity supply. Don’t you care about these people who voted for you? Do you have any humanity left in you? And the most criminal acts of yours, which is unpardonable – why didn’t your government allow DTC buses to ply under lockdown? Why? If you had a humanitarian concern, why didn’t you ferry the people to their respective destination? Why did you dump them at Anand Vihar? You criminal! Why are you playing such dirty politics, Mr Kejriwal? Why is it that only natives of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had assembled at Anand Vihar? Isn’t this a conspiracy Kejriwal? Is it because your government’s exchequer is empty? Or is it because you want to spread the Chinese virus to make India depend on China for masks and medicines? Or is it because you have this conspiracy to malign Nitish Kumar and Yogi Adityanath? After all, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are going to face elections from some time. Kejriwal, everything was under control. The Modi government had an effective plan to save the nation from disaster, but you tried spoiling everything, you anarchist! People will hold your collars Kejriwal and seek answers from you. The whole country is against you. First, you masterminded Shaheen Bagh and planned anti-Hindu riots in Delhi. And now you’re pushing India to stage three Chinese virus. Kejriwal when you cannot handle a city-state like Delhi, you’re unfit to be a leader. I am sure the poor Delhi people will be repenting of electing you as the chief minister of Delhi. You see that UP government organised buses to take fleeing people home, but my first question to you Kejriwal is who spread the rumours to cause this panic? Who, who, who? Whenever I think you cannot stoop any lower, but you prove me wrong always Mr Kejriwal. What Xi Jinping did to China, you try doing to India. You are an Indian version of Mao Zedong. Do a handful of you think that the red flag can be hoisted in the nation? Do you? Impossible! (translated from तुम मूठीभर चांडाल यह समहाजते हो की देश में लाल झंडा फेराओ गे, यह समहाजते हो, नामुमकिन!)”.
Alt News has received several requests to fact-check this on WhatsApp (+91 76000 11160) and on our official Android application.

Fact-check
Alt News reached out Harish Salve via email to verify if the audio clip is genuine or not. He replied, “This is an absolute fake – like the previous one. The first one was my purported comments on the CAA and now this nonsense. I am complaining to the CP (commissioner of police) Delhi about this.”
Therefore the claim associated with the viral video that the man speaking in the clip is Salve is false.
Furthermore, the man in the audio clip claims that the recent Delhi riots were anti-Hindu. However, on March 18, The Polis Project, a non-profit research and journalism organisation, updated a documenting the individuals who died during the targeted violence in North East Delhi between February 23 to 29. Out 52 people, 41 people were from the Muslim community and 11 were from the Hindu community. Therefore, to label the riots as anti-Hindu is inaccurate and grossly misleading.
There have been several such misleading audio clips circulating WhatsApp. On March 19, Alt News fact-checked a fake audio clip attributed to Dr Devi Shetty which advised against getting tested for coronavirus.


Viral audio clip blaming Kejriwal for exodus of migrants workers falsely attributed to Harish Salve - Alt News
 

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Video of stale food thrown by migrant workers shared with false narrative
Jignesh Patel
7th May 2020
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Jignesh Patelthisisjignesh
A video of passengers in a train throwing food packets on railway platform is being shared with the claim that migrants discarded the food provided to them by the government and other agencies during their travel amidst the lockdown. Twitter user Vidyasagar Jagadeesan posted the video with the message, “Migrants throwing food given to them on the platform. Worst culture. Govt and agencies provide them food for their journey. But this is how they treat it.” It has been retweeted more than 600 times so far.

Vidyasagar Jagadeesan @jvidyasagar

https://twitter.com/jvidyasagar/status/1257676209044877315

Migrants throwing food given to them on the platform. Worst culture. Govt and agencies provide them food for their journey. But this is how they treat it.


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19:49 - 5 May 2020
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Swarajya columnist Vikas Saraswat quote-tweeted the video and opined, “Disgusting behaviour. We often blame politicians, Babus, this and that. The real problem is indisciplined, selfish, mean minded folks with no sense of nationalism and societal obligation. Yes all Indians aren’t like that but these are still large numbers to affect nationally.”

Alt News has also received several requests on its official Android application to fact-check this video.

Another claim suggests the passengers are migrant workers from Maharastra
The video is also getting shared on Facebook and Twitter with Marathi text, “अत्यंत खेदाची गोष्ट आहे* या परप्रांतियांना महाराष्ट्राने भरभरून दिले तेच आता आपापल्या गावी जाताना महाराष्ट्राला शिव्या शाप देत चालले आहेत ते सुखरूप गावी पोचावे म्हणून सरकारने जेवण, गाडी यांची व्यवस्था करून दिली तरीही जेवण रस्तावर फेकून देत चालले आहेत किती हा माज पण एक गोष्ट लक्षात ठेवा पुन्हा याल तर याद राखा”.
the text suggests that the incident took place in Maharastra where migrants workers threw relief food and cursed the state.

Fact-check
Alt News found that the video shows an incident of stale food being thrown by migrant workers travelling from Ernakulam in Kerala to Danapur in Bihar at West Bengal’s Asansol station. The video was shot on May 4, 2020. According to a report by The Quint, many of the migrant labourers complained that the food was stale and started throwing it on the railway station. In another video of the same incident posted below, one can hear the migrants saying that the food stinks and it’s inedible.

Sreyashi [email protected]

https://twitter.com/SreyashiDey/status/1257551490526466048

Hello @RailMinIndia, passengers travelling in Shramik train from #Kerala to #Danapur complained of being served stale food at #Asansol station. The food packets were thrown by them on the platform in protest. Please ensure safe edible food for migrants.


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11:33 - 5 May 2020
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Responding to a user who shared the video, the official handle of Indian Railways Seva tweeted on May 5, “Maam, it was yesterday incident and alternative arrangement was done at Jhajha station . Also corrective measures have taken to avoid such issue.”

Speaking with The Quint, Eastern Railways PRO Ekalabya Chakraborty said, “The food arrangement was made by IRCTC. In some coaches, it was reported that the food was not up to the mark. There is no question of denial. There were problems with the food. Because of the paucity of time, we couldn’t rectify it at the Asansol station itself. However, we arranged for food again in the next station. It was a mishap, yes. But we tried to rectify it.” Twitter user Vidyasagar later clarified that the passengers threw the food as it was stale.
Thus, the video showed migrants travelling from Kerala to Bihar throwing stale food at a railway station in West Bengal, however, it was falsely claimed that the incident happened in Maharashtra. More importantly, social media claims failed to highlight the reason that compelled these migrants to throw the food. As admitted by the Indian Railways, the food had gone bad.


Video of stale food thrown by migrant workers shared with false narrative - Alt News
 

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UP fights fake news as Jamaat blamed in most social media posts
Saharanpur Police released a note saying that after inquiry all this was found to be fake and the news reports were wrong. The police also advised the media to check before posting any such thing on social media.

By
Kumar Anshuman
ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 06, 2020, 11.24 PM IST

1588880084323.png

[Image: CM] CM assured them that strong action would be taken against those who were spreading misinformation and fake news through social media.

NEW DELHI:
The Uttar Pradesh government launched a crackdown on misinformation and fake news which could create communal disturbance, a development that came in the wake of talk about Tablighi Jamaat members quarantined in the state.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath held a meeting with more than 300 religious leaders of all communities through videoconference on Sunday and requested them to issue an appeal to people to cooperate with the government in its fight against Covid-19. He assured them that strong action would be taken against those who were spreading misinformation and fake news through social media.

“We have also got directives from the central government that we should be actively countering misinformation and fake news through the real version of the police or the government,” HC Awasthi, director general of police, UP, told ET.

“In addition, social media cells of all zonal and district police units are keeping a constant vigil on social media, and if there is anything wrong, action is being taken as per the rules.” There were news reports and social media posts on Sunday that in Rampur, people from Jamaat who were in quarantine created a ruckus demanding non-vegetarian food.

Saharanpur Police released a note saying that after inquiry all this was found to be fake and the news reports were wrong. The police also advised the media to check before posting any such thing on social media.

In Prayagraj, a conflict between two families broke out and a person named Lotan Nishad got killed. A number of TV channels and media persons posted on social media saying this person was killed by a person who had links with Tablighi Jamaat. On Sunday Prayagraj Police came forward through social media to refute such allegations and said that neither the victim nor the accused had any links with the Jamaat.

Along with police, health workers across the state have been advised by district magistrates and chief medical officers of districts to not spread any rumour and to work diligently to ensure good health to everyone. No health worker is now allowed to carry his or her mobile phone to the quarantine wards and any information is shared only by either the CMO or the DM of the district.

“We can hardly afford any communal tension at this point of time in the state,” said a district magistrate from western UP, who did not wish to be identified. Till Monday evening, UP had reported 305 Covid-19 positive cases and three deaths due to the infection.


UP fights fake news as Jamaat blamed in most social media posts
 

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'2020 is the year to survive, not make profits' WhatsApp forward is fake news, Ratan Tata clarifies

In less than a month, the Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus busted a second piece of fake news.

ET Online
Last Updated: May 05, 2020, 10.28 AM IST



[Image: Ratan Tata urged his fans to always verify the source of the media. ] Ratan Tata urged his fans to always verify the source of the media.
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Trusting the WhatsApp university with credible news is not always the best option. And, Ratan Tata has once again called out the unnamed WhatsApp warriors at work.

During the weekend, an article written in Hindi, attributed to the Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus, was circulating on the messaging platform.

The article said that '2020 is the year to stay alive, and not worry about profits and losses'. The piece said that all the businessmen and company owners should not stress about aiming to fulfil their dreams and plans as staying alive this year will be the biggest profit one can imagine.




[Image: Ratan Tata's Instagram Story] Ratan Tata's Instagram Story
The 82-year-old billionaire took to social media to call out the fake news. He further encouraged his followers, 8.5 million on Twitter and 2.4 million on Instagram, to always verify the news sources before believing it. "My picture alongside a quote does not guarantee me having said it," he mentioned, pointing out the problem that is faced by many personalities.

I’m afraid this too, has not been said by me. I will endeavour to call out fake news whenever I can, but would enco… https://t.co/ZOvwss2ktF
— Ratan N. Tata (@RNTata2000) 1588512302000
Last month, the Tata Trusts Chairman had posed another picture on social media and clarified it was not said or written by him. He urged his fans to verify the media circulated on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Ensuring every one is safe, he stressed that statements made by him will always be uploaded on his official channels.

This post has neither been said, nor written by me. I urge you to verify media circulated on WhatsApp and social pl… https://t.co/bv8UkGZi34




'2020 is the year to survive, not make profits' WhatsApp forward is fake news, Ratan Tata clarifies


Also read: Ratan Tata busts fake news, says quote about corona impact on economy floating on WhatsApp not his
 

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WhatsApp: The 'black hole' of fake news in India's election
  • 6 April 2019
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Muslim women and men gathered around three bodies in 2014
Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionThe victims of a suicide attack pictured in this 2014 photo were falsely identified as Pakistani militants
WhatsApp, India's most popular messaging platform, has become a vehicle for misinformation and propaganda ahead of the upcoming election. The Facebook-owned app has announced new measures to fight this but experts say the scale of the problem is overwhelming.
India was in the grip of patriotic fervour in early March when WhatsApp groups were flooded with photographs claiming to show proof that unprecedented Indian air strikes in Pakistani territory had been successful.
While India's government said the 26 February strikes had killed a "large number of militants", Islamabad insisted there had been no casualties.
But BBC fact-checkers found that the photos - purportedly of dead militants and a destroyed training camp - were old images that were being shared with false captions.
One photo showed a crowd of Muslim women and men gathered around three bodies but those pictured were actually victims of a suicide attack in Pakistan in 2014. A series of photos - of crumbling buildings, piles of debris and bodies in shrouds lying on the ground - were traced to a devastating earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in 2005.
A Facebook post misidentifying a photo from an earthquake in Kashmir
Image copyrightFACEBOOKImage captionThis photo of the aftermath of an earthquake in Kashmir was shared on WhatsApp and Facebook
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WhatsApp and Facebook have been struggling to curb the impact of "fake news" - messages, photos and videos peddling misleading or outright false information - in elections around the world.
But India's upcoming election - the world's largest democratic exercise - is seen as a significant test. Internet usage in rural areas has exploded since the last election in 2014, fuelled by the world's lowest mobile data prices.
In the lead-up to the vote, Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts and pages for misleading users. WhatsApp, meanwhile, has launched a service to verify reports sent in by users and to study the scale of misinformation on the platform.
What's the scale of the problem?
India poses a particularly complex problem for Facebook. It is WhatsApp's largest market - more than 200 million Indians use the app - and a place where users forward more content than anywhere else in the world.
The fact that up to 256 people can be part of a group chat makes it incredibly popular with extended families and large groups of friends. While much of these daily conversations involve people making plans, sharing jokes and catching up - political messages and videos are also shared widely.
BBC research last year found that a rising tide of nationalism was driving Indians to share fake news. Participants tended to assume that WhatsApp messages from family and friends could be trusted and sent on without any checks.
Prasanto K Roy, a tech writer, is in a group of more than 100 classmates from his old high school in Delhi. There are Christians and Muslims in the Hindu-majority group.
"In the past year we have been seeing a great deal of polarisation," he said. "A few people were incessantly sending out fake stuff. Some of us would do fact checks and tell them off but we were ignored. Finally they were suspended. Things have improved but it's still tense."
Many Indians were first introduced to the internet through their smartphones. A recent Reuters Institute survey of English-language Indian internet users found that 52% of respondents got news via WhatsApp. The same proportion said they got their news from Facebook.
But content shared via WhatsApp has led to murder. At least 31 people were killed in 2017 and 2018 as a result of mob attacks fuelled by rumours on WhatsApp and social media, a BBC analysis found.
What's happening before the election?
Both of the main parties - the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the opposition Congress - are exploiting the power of WhatsApp to try to influence India's 900 million eligible voters.
Before the campaign began, the BJP had plans to assign some 900,000 people with the specific task of localised WhatsApp campaigning, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.
Congress, the party of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, is focusing on uploading campaign content on Facebook and distributing it via WhatsApp.
Both parties have been accused of spreading false or misleading information, or misrepresentation online. On 1 April, Facebook removed 687 pages or accounts that it said were linked to the Congress party for "co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour".
Pro-BJP Facebook pages - possibly as many as 200 - were also taken down, according to reports, although Facebook did not confirm this. (The social media company did not respond to a request for an explanation).



Media captionIndia's elections: Why you should care
The BJP began setting up WhatsApp groups en masse around 2016 as it saw an opportunity to reach vast numbers of people, said Shivam Shankar Singh, a former BJP data analyst who worked on regional elections in 2017 and 2018.
By mapping names on electoral rolls against purchased phone numbers and names, it was able to create groups based on certain demographics - such as caste or religion - and target messaging, he said.
Mr Singh, who now works for anti-BJP opposition parties in the state of Bihar, estimated that there were at least 20,000 pro-BJP WhatsApp groups in northern Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.
National party spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal denied that the party had any official policy to set up WhatsApp groups - other than to facilitate communication between party workers.
He said supporters and members at a local level were allowed to set up groups, but that these had no official link to the party.
"We don't want to control it, it's an open social media platform," he said.
Why does WhatsApp pose a unique problem?
Indian fact-checking websites like AltNews and Boom frequently debunk political posts shared on Facebook and Twitter - such as reports that a British analyst of Indian elections had called Congress leader Rahul Gandhi "stupid" or that an air force pilot seen as a national hero had joined Congress.
These posts, while not promoted by official party accounts, are often spread widely by unofficial groups or people supporting the parties. They are then sometimes shared by politicians.
"Facebook and Twitter are platforms that do not allow too much secrecy which allows fact-checkers like us to trace who the bad actors are in many of the cases," said Jency Jacob, the managing editor of Indian fact-checking site Boom.
The difference with WhatsApp is that posts there are private and protected by encryption. Mr Roy likened it to "something of a black hole".
"No-one, including WhatsApp itself, gets to see, read, filter or analyse text messages," he said.
This is unlikely to change - the company said it "deeply believes in people's ability to communicate privately online".



Media captionThe digital epidemic killing IndiansWhat has the company done?
Amid the furore over mob lynchings last year, WhatsApp limited the number of times a user can forward a message to five. It also now labels forwarded messages.
The company has launched a nationwide advertising campaign in 10 languages, which it says has reached hundreds of millions of Indians. It also says that it bans two million accounts globally every month that are sending automated spam messages.
Actors in WhatsApp shirts perform a skit in Jaipur in October 2018
Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionWhatsApp has performed street plays in India to spread awareness about misinformation
New privacy settings also allow users to decide who can add them to groups. Previously any WhatsApp user could be added to a group by any other. Now you can choose to only be added automatically to groups by contacts, or by no-one at all.
On 2 April the company announced a new project - Checkpoint - that allows users to send in suspicious messages in English and four Indian languages to a local media start-up Proto for verification. Users are told if the message is true, false, misleading or disputed.
It was reported widely as a new fact-checking service but the company has since emphasised that it mostly aims to "study the misinformation phenomenon" and that not all users will receive a response.
Is it working?
While WhatsApp said its moves had decreased forwarded messages by 25%, fact-checkers at other organisations say fake news is still rampant. And they are frustrated that the same rumours and conspiracy theories that they have already debunked - that the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty have Muslim roots, for example - keep resurfacing.
They say that unless WhatsApp changes its stance on encryption and privacy, the introduction of features similar to those that exist on Facebook - for example, flagging debunked content to users who try to forward it - is impossible.
Screenshots showing WhatsApp checkpoint's service responding to a BBC message asking for confirmation that we want to verify an item
Image captionThe BBC is yet to receive a response from WhatsApp's new service
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Critics also point out that new rules on the platform won't affect the huge number of group chats that already exist - giving the party of Prime Minister Modi an advantage.
"The BJP is the only party that has WhatsApp groups at this scale," Mr Singh said. "The other parties can't do it now because WhatsApp has changed its policies."
Additional reporting by Aparna Alluri



WhatsApp: The 'black hole' of fake news in India's election
 
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