Hacktivist group, Anonymous, might be fighting for the rights of free speech on the internet, but there’s a flip-side to it as well. Thanks to the lack of regulations on the internet or any mechanism to check validity of sources, anyone can post any information they like. Which then, thanks to our click-happy ways, gets shared and re-tweeted and liked and quoted by everyone else on our page and on our friend’s pages and their friends’ pages. You get the drift.
Today, anyone with an opinion or agenda can publish a blog, post a video on youtube and even change a Wiki entry. And this ability to post information – accurate and otherwise – has led to a slew of incorrect documents and claims which are attributed to non-existent companies and government bodies. Which makes it the perfect tool and outlet for anyone who wants to dabble in a little propaganda. What better place and way to spread lies than to post something utterly fictitious on a platform accessed by millions, which has no way of verifying your claims! It’s a propaganda artist’s paradise.
UPA government responsible for Petrol Price
This is an old one and made the rounds when petrol prices in India were still stuck at Rs 70. The image given below was seen as yet another example of how the UPA was taking the economy and the people for a ride. While the brickbats aren’t unjustified, the fact that the figures quoted are totally incorrect sort of ruins the case being made. The image is a comparative analysis of petrol prices in India with respect to other countries. You’d wish you were born in Cuba after seeing this.
But, before you book your tickets and burn a few effigies on the way to the airport, here are the correct figures:
Pakistan – Rs. 105.68 as on April 1’2012 (INR 62.34)
Bangladesh – 81 Taka as on September 19’2011 (INR 54.87)
Cuba – $1.19 as on September 28’2010 (INR 66.08)
Nepal – NRs 112 as on January 26’2012 (INR 70.15)
Afghanistan – 62 AFN as on April 4’2012 (INR 68.68)
Myanmar – 870.89 MMK as on January 9’2012 (INR 57.47)
This image gave the names of around 28 people of Indian origin who had black money stashed away in Swiss Banks. This went around the net at super-sonic speed, claiming that the media will never share these documents and only the social media can give you this information.
Apart from the horrendous language, here’s why this is a fake.
1) The IP address 184.108.40.206, when tracked turned out to be of Sweden. Wikileaks in Australia giving details of Swiss Banks from Sweden?
2) It also states they got this document from Rudolf Elmer, an ex-Swiss Bank employee. It’s a little odd that a Swiss bank employee has access to bank accounts of other countries like Germany or London, which are mentioned in this.
3) And then Wiki finally couldn’t take it anymore and posted a status on its facebook wall stating that this is a fake image.
Of course, by that time it had got more than its fair share of likes and shares.
Swiss Bank letter to Government of India
Now this is one of my personal favourites, because it’s nice to see the amount of effort which has gone into making this fake document. The masthead looks real. It also has the signature of the Manager and stamp of the Bank. But a close look will point out all the flaws in one go.
1) The letter is addressed to Indian Government, whereas it should be Government of India.
2) The country code written at the bottom is 0044, which is the country code of UK and not Switzerland.
3) All the amounts are given in INR. The figures by the bank should either be in US $ or Euro. Also, crore is a unit in south-Asian numbering system and not Europe.
4) Why would a bank give country-wise statistics of Swiss bank deposits on a letter head?
5) When I checked who Martin De Sa’ Pinto was, he turned out to be a Reuters reporter reporting on bank related issues whose name had simply been used for that of the bank manager.
This letter also found mention in the White Paper on Black Money submitted by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Here are the excerpts from Section 2.6 – Estimates of Black Money Stashed Abroad
India’s National Anthem – World’s Best
Now this kind of propaganda exists to evoke patriotism. Sweet. Only problem, UNESCO never conducted a “Best Anthem Competition” or anything of the sort. This is something which I think a Tagore fan made and forwarded to people. Next up, how Honey Singh’s ‘Angrezi Beat’ has been voted by UNESCO as the best potential anthem for the country? (via newslaundry)