Even if the acting is terrible and the circumstances are made up, staged films are spreading misinformation and stoking sectarian tensions in India. This is happening at a time when there has been a rise in Hindu extremism under the leadership of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In one of these five-minute videos, the viewer is led to believe that a Muslim guy is mixing toilet cleaning liquid into a street snack before being “confronted” by bystanders. More than five million people have viewed the video on Facebook so far.
A second video, which has been seen more than 3.5 million times on YouTube, shows a fruit vendor defrauding people out of pomegranates before being harassed and attacked by other customers. Fruit selling is a profession that many Muslims pursue.
“Before buying anything from Muslim Jihadis, watch this video of a Muslim fruit seller,” the accompanying message advises viewers to do.
– An audience numbering in the millions –
When questioned about the potential consequences of their work, the creators of the videos claim that the recordings are just intended to provide “entertainment” and to generate financial gain.
Narendra Verma, who operates a popular YouTube channel and maintains a Facebook page with 55,000 followers, is the creator of the video promoting the toilet cleaning liquid.
The well-dressed 28-year-old guy told AFP that his movies have the potential to earn his six-member team 250,000 Indian rupees ($3,000) each month via YouTube and Facebook, depending on the number of views that they receive.
“Everyone has different responsibilities, from writing the script of the video to shooting it and, later on, editing and uploading it,” he added. “Everything from the script to the shooting to the editing and uploading.”
“We make these videos (to make) people aware so that they can avoid such incidents happening for real in society,” he added. “We make these videos (to make) people aware so that they can avoid such incidents happening.”
Raju Bharti is the proprietor of a channel on YouTube that has 2.89 million followers and to which he has published hundreds of movies, one of which is titled “Muslim fruit-seller.” He refutes the allegations that he stirred up hostility.
“We make videos about digital fraud, child kidnapping, and how shopkeepers or hawkers cheat common people,” he told AFP. “We make videos about how shopkeepers or hawkers cheat common people.”
“Our goal is not to hurt the sentiments of any religion or community; we simply want to make people aware of the situation,” said the organization.
The so-called “Hindu brothers”
According to the opinions of several experts, videos such as these are frequently disseminated in order to spread bad stereotypes and conspiratorial ideas about the approximately 210 million Muslims who live in the country with the most people on the planet.
One video that has received 1.2 million views depicts a man who has been disguising himself as a Muslim woman by wearing a burqa and running away while carrying a “stolen” child under his arm.
“Burqa masks terrorist activity. Burqa fosters criminality. The caption suggests that the burqa should be made illegal in India.
Some depict Hindu women who, according to the narrative, were tricked into marrying Muslims, which is a prevalent theme among extremists on the Hindu right.
These movies are frequently shared on social media as part of campaigns to economically target or attack Muslims, or at times of heightened tension among communities.
“Wake up… In reaction to the video of the person using toilet cleaning liquid, one user commented in the comments section, “Hindu brothers and sisters, wake up now or never, the economic boycott is the only option for these Jihadis.”
Disclaimers: After their films went popular and were subsequently refuted by AFP and other fact-checking organizations, some of the content creators removed their videos off the internet.
Verma began to receive calls from the media when his video of toilet cleaning liquid went viral, and he was eventually required to speak with the police.
He claimed that he was “scared” and that he has now moved on to topics that are less sinister, such as dancing or pranks.
Some content creators attempt to get around the rules of social media platforms by publishing “disclaimer” remarks that are only up for a short period of time and that they swiftly delete.
According to Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a journalist, author, and filmmaker who investigates instances of hate speech and disinformation online, the creators of the films then label them as “entertainment” on social media platforms.
This is the true flaw in the system… Even after the material has been disseminated with a misleading claim, they are still able to propagate disinformation by simply adding a disclaimer, he said.
Videos that have been removed from a website frequently return after being deleted.
– ‘Significant steps’ –
When asked about the videos that are being discussed in this article, the parent company of Facebook, Meta, stated that it was examining them. Requests for comments were sent to YouTube, Twitter, and the Indian government, but none of them responded.
In a statement that was sent out through email, Meta stated, “We do not permit hate speech on our platform, and we remove it whenever we find it or are made aware of it.”
Meta has said that it eliminates information that breaches “Community Standards,” therefore lowering the circulation of tales that have been shown to be incorrect by independent fact-checkers and “informing people so that they can decide what to read, trust, and share.”
As part of the third-party program offered by Meta, the Agence France-Presse (AFP), which is a partner of Facebook, has a worldwide team of journalists, some of whom are based in India, who work to dispel disinformation.
On Facebook, the AFP labeled posts that shared the video as “false information” after determining that the video about toilet cleaning solutions included “false information.”
Because of Facebook’s policies, the postings were shown to fewer people and included a link to an article written by AFP that debunks the claims.
On the other hand, keyword searches conducted on Facebook and other social media platforms revealed a number of postings that still had the video accessible to users.
According to Thakurta, a large number of Indians frequently like and share films that reflect their preconceived notions without first determining whether or not the videos are really accurate.
“It is imperative that we work to raise people’s levels of social consciousness. He told AFP that education should include “social media awareness,” which “has to be a part of our education syllabus.”
He went on to say that although there were rules on the books to control social media, these laws were not being adequately enforced in a nation that had 1.4 billion people and 600 million cellphones.
“These (social media platforms) are being used or misused to spread Islamophobia and hate against Muslims in India,” he added. “This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.”