Amidst the flood of unverified and misleading claims on the Israel-Palestine war, India has emerged as an unlikely leading source of disinformation. Hindu nationalists in general, and supporters and members of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in particular, are among the top online profiles spreading fake viral videos and deliberate false information fanning Islamophobia. The party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at the forefront of an information war on social media actively working to co-opt anti-Palestine and pro-Israel narratives for domestic audiences. This rhetoric has also had offline consequences, with right-wing groups putting up posters declaring support for Israel and BJP members organising rallies for Israel. Some Hindutva supporters have even volunteered to enlist with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
Modi, the first Indian premier to visit Tel Aviv, was among the first non-western leaders to come out in support of Israel and “strongly and unequivocally” condemn the Hamas terrorist attack on 7 October. Shortly after, the BJP shared a 3-minute clip on its official X account equating India and Israel as victims of Islamist terrorism. The video, which garnered around 4 million views, is laden with graphic images of terror attacks during the Congress Party rule in India. It blamed the opposition party for supporting terrorism and valorised the BJP’s strike on Pakistan to eliminate what it sees as state-sponsored terrorism.
Since then, there has been a surge in posts from pro-BJP accounts, pages and private WhatsApp groups perpetuating dangerous anti-Muslim rhetoric, expressing unconditional solidarity with Israeli strikes, and mocking Palestinian victims. Hashtags such as #IndiaStandsWithIsrael, #HindusWithIsrael, #Israel_under_attack, #IsraeliLivesMatter, #IsraelFightsTerror, #IsraelFightsBack, #HamasTerrorists, #HamasWarCrimes are commonly used to increase the virality of these posts. According to the fact-checking platform Logically Facts, nearly 20% of the 1 million posts with hashtags #IsraelUnderAttack and #IStandWithIsrael came from India.
The viral misinformation included a fake account posing as an Al Jazeera journalist who claimed to have witnessed Hamas firing missiles on the Al Ahli hospital, as well as videos from a repurposed film set claiming that Palestinians are staging their injuries by putting on makeup and using dolls to depict dead children in Gaza (Figs. 1-3). Numerous posts contain recycled content, including outdated and irrelevant videos, photos, and manufactured claims, all of which have been discredited by fact-checkers who have provided additional context in the community notes on X. Yet, these posts continue to be widely shared and circulated on Indian social media, racking up millions of views. It is also clear that such tweets from some verified accounts that meet Twitter’s monetisation standards are shared for higher engagement to benefit from X’s new monetisation policy. To address this, Twitter has stopped payouts for content that has been fact-checked by community notes.
This story was originally published in gnet-research.org. Read the full story here .