Postcard News: Mass producing fake news
On 18th May 2015, Twitter handle of postcard.news tweeted the picture of two young children claiming that they were Balochs who were being killed and brutalised. In reality, this image has been used by multiple media outlets for the past 10 years. It has been available on the photo sharing website Flickr since 2008. Recently, we saw how child abduction rumours on WhatsApp led to the lynching of 8 people. The tiniest of rumour can turn deadly in the age of social media and we as a country need to identify every single outlet that dishes out these fake news, images and videos so as to prevent another Jharkhand from happening.
Postcard.news has been at the forefront in spreading fake news. Multiple websites have documented their efforts at propagating fake news. Here’s a list of articles that have been authored by postcard.news and are absolutely fake.
- April 18, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “Watch!! Is Birbhum a Part of Pakistan or Bangladesh“. The first sentence of the article is “Jihadi Didi’s West Bengal is a safe haven for all Islamic Fanatics.” In this article they claimed that 2 Muslim IPS officers beat-up Hanuman devotees on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti on April 11th, 2017. To substantiate their claims, they also posted a video of a police officer beating up a man. Alt News investigated this issue and found it to be absolutely fake. The video that they posted has been available on YouTube since 2014.
- May 17, 2017: Postcard posted an article titled “Mamata Banerjee to setup separate engineering entrance exam for minority students.” We searched for this news in main stream media websites and found nothing that was remotely related to this issue in the year 2017. Finally, we found an article dated April, 05, 2014 in Economic Times. Not only were they rehashing a 3 year old story as a present one, they also forgot to mention that the article has stated clearly that Mamta Government is doing so based on Supreme Court directives. The article on Economic Times also states that Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka already had one such system. Ironically, the last sentence of this Postcard article states “It is time the courts step in and put a break on her appeasement politics” while it was Supreme Court’s directives all along.
- Jan 20, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “Must read! World Economic Forum releases survey on Indian media, the results are shameful!“. It was funny to see a site like Postcard talk about trustworthiness of other media sources. The Postcard article stated that “The World Economic Forum, which released the report has labelled the Indian media as the second most untrusted institution in the world.” They also managed to connect this data with NDTV, Kanhaiya Kumar and Burhan Wani. Boomlive.in investigated this issue and found that “India was among the three countries in which media was trusted. The other countries are China and Indonesia. Moreover, trust in Indian media has increased 3 percentage points from 2016 to 66% in 2017.“.
- March 20, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “BBC News Point releases names of 10 most corrupt political parties in the world 2017, Check which party from India is named most corrupt!.” This article claimed that Indian National Congress was the 4th most corrupt party in the world.Geeta Pandey who works with BBC tweeted the postcard article and stated that BBC never did any such survey. DNA also wrote an article stating how BBC News Point was a fake site.
- August 19, 2016: Postcard wrote an article titled “The ‘Kind Young Man’ who gave lift to Barkha Dutt is Hizbul Mujaheddin Terrorist Zakir Rashid??” They posted two unrelated grainy pictures of Barkha Dutt taking a scooter ride with some young man in Budgam and juxtaposed it with a picture of then newly appointed Hizbul chief Zakir Musa. Alt News investigated and found that Postcard’s assertion was faker than fake. Read more about it here.
- April 13, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “Good News! Yogi decides to end reservation in this sector.” In this article, they claimed that Yogi Adityanath has decided to end reservation in private medical colleges. The Postcard article claimed that it was a landmark step to change the deteriorating picture of Uttar Pradesh. It turned out that no such reservation ever existed according to this article on New India Express.
- Feb 2, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “Exclusive & Shocking! Money, Foreign trips and Call girls…Aam Aadmi Party makes revolution in social media campaigning“. In this article, they quoted a a Twitter account called “aap_lal” which was created in Jan 2017. It was an anonymous Twitter account which claimed that AAP was paying Rs 50 for ever tweet and 7 for every retweet. SMHoaxslayer looked at this issue and found it to be absolutely fake. As it turned out, the @aap_lal Twitter account was created with the express purpose of spreading rumours. Soon after Postcard’s fake exposé, Twitter suspended the aap_lal Twitter account.
- Jan 3, 2017: Postcard wrote an article titled “BIG BREAKING! PM Modi’s big diplomatic win, Dawood Ibrahim’s assets worth 15,000 crore rupees seized in UAE!“. Huffingtonpost found out that this was completely untrue.
The above list is just a partial list of the fake news, rumours, disinformation that postcard.news propagates. Who’s behind this factory of fake news? As stated on the website, postcard.news was founded by Mahesh Vikram Hegde, Vivek Shetty and Ankita Rajvardhan.
While Mahesh Hegde is followed by PM Modi on Twitter, Vivek Shetty and Ankita Rajvardhan are followed by other Union Minisers such as Piyush Goyal on Twitter. Ankita Rajvardhan also has pictures with various Union Ministers including Sushma Swaraj, Gen VK Singh, Rajnath Singh on her Twitter profile. Vivek Shetty and Mahesh Hegde regularly promote postcard.news articles through their social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. At the time of writing, via such blatant fakery as exhibited in this article, Postcard.news is now in the top 500 websites in India in terms of traffic ranking.
This story first appeared in Altnews.in on May 27, 2019 here.
Update: The founder of Postcard News Mahesh Vikram Hegde was detained by Karnataka cops in fake letter case in April 2019.