In recent days videos and posts claiming the Muslims are immune to the novel Coronavirus and telling people not to follow social distancing have made their way to different social media platforms. The Delhi Police have said that they had recently uncovered a concerted campaign to spread misinformation posing a grave challenge to Government’s efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.
In the first week of the lockdown which has been implemented on pan India, an investigation conducted on the content that is being shared on WhatsApp and other applications like TikTok says that many videos were found which specifically target the Muslim community by quoting the religious leaders and texts.
After analysing more than 30,000 videos on the social networking platforms over the last 5 days it was found that most of the false information and posts were created in Urdu and Hindi to target a specific audience, said the police.
The videos were analysed by the police with the help of security researchers, data analysts, and fact checkers and the reports of this digital investigation was accessed by many leading news agencies in the country. As per the early estimates, over 1 crore people have already seen these videos, signifying a high level of impact and large circulation.
The 22 page report said, “Several of these videos appear to be shot in Pakistan and the Middle East but audio in Hindi has been superimposed to make it look like its shot in India,”. The report has been shared with many intelligence agencies.
A senior police official said, “Our analysis has revealed an alarming number of videos are being shared advising Muslims not to practice social distancing and several suggesting that coronavirus does not kill Muslims,”.
According to him, the analysis also reveals a pattern in the dissemination of these videos and posts.
He says, “While analysing the origins and sources of these videos, it was observed that several of the accounts which originally created them are being deleted regularly after the content goes viral to hide its origin,”.
The report also says, “Considering the fact that most of these videos have been created with professional video editing software, being viralled (sic) on social media platforms, original uploader accounts being deleted, and certain accounts peddling fake news among Muslims are promoting Pakistani religious leaders with terror links. A further investigation into the likely role of foreign actors needs to be investigated,”.
The investigation also says that TikTok, the Chinese owned video sharing app, is the most preferred media for creating and spreading the videos with religious instigations against the health advisors and fake information pertaining the novel Coronavirus. The videos are further shared on Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook.
The report also says that videos of Muslims refusing to get tested and even attacking and beating the medical professionals were being circulated encouraging others to do the same.
Religious texts are also being quoted to not stop shaking hands and encouraging them to go to their religious shrines even during the lockdown.
Authorities have expressed concern over the ongoing and potential impact of these videos and posts amidst the attacks on the Medical Professional in Indore, Madhya Pradesh earlier this week and the emergence of a cluster in Delhi because of the gathering held by the Muslim missionary group in March which has lead to a spike in Coronavirus cases the country.
After the investigation in the Delhi congregation, the police are now looking into the sermon who allegedly by the Chief cleric of the Tablighi Jamaat group termed the directions of doctors a “Conspiracy to keep Muslims away from their fellow Muslims”.
Since then the Maulana Saad Kandhalvi had issued an audio message to his followers asking them to cooperate with the authorities and the government in fighting the deadly disease.
He said, “We have to take precautions, follow the guidance of the doctors and give full support to the government such as not crowding into places. This is not against the principles of Islam,”. As of today morning, India has reported over 2,500 cases out of which 72 people have lost their lives owing to the Coronavirus. Though the number is way too less compared to countries in Europe and the Middle East, but the health experts have warned that the number could surge across the country if the contagion takes root.