Days after the lynching in Maharashtra’s Dhule district that claimed the lives of five people, reports suggest that three fake videos had created panic in the area, leading to the incidents of violence.
The videos, circulated through WhatsApp, spread rumours about child-lifters that led to the death of the five men earlier this month.
A report in The Indian Express says that the videos that purported to show men picking up children on bikes led to nine deaths in 25 days. One of the videos, discovered by the police, is said to be doing the rounds of social media in other parts of India as well.
While India has approached WhatsApp to put in place a mechanism to curb the spread of such videos, the police say that such videos are being deliberately edited and spread to create panic.
Of the three videos, the most circulated one is not even from India. It is said to have been created by an NGO called Roshni Helpline, along with another organisation, to promote child safety in Karachi.
They said that only part of the video, taken out of context, was being circulated.
A spokesperson of the NGO told The Indian Express, “The clip used in the WhatsApp messages in India has been edited to remove the context and messaging. It shows CCTV footage of a child being snatched by two men on a motorbike. What it hides is the two men returning to the spot and placing the child back. One of the men then holds up a sign that reads, ‘It takes only a moment to kidnap a child from the streets of Karachi’. It also contains text that states, ‘Every year, over 3,000 children go missing in Karachi, Pakistan. Keep an eye on your child’.”
It was reported a few days ago that another video of the nerve gas attack in Syria was also being circulated and being attributed to India. This video is 5 years old.
NDTV had reported that it showed bodies of children laid in rows and had a Hindi caption claiming they were killed by people who wanted to harvest organs.
The news channel quoted Jency Jacob from Boomlive.in, the website that had called out the video, as saying, “This hails from 2013 from a nerve gas attack that had happened in Syria. The bodies that you see are of Syrian children.”
WhatsApp has, meanwhile, planned to run public safety ad campaigns to curb the spread of fake news in India.
“Like the Government of India, we’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised,” WhatsApp said in a letter to the ministry dated July 3 and reviewed by Reuters.