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Fake news, propaganda and hate: How Twitter gives free run to Madhu Kishwar, other hate peddlers in India

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Madhu Kishwar often shares fake news, she has been accused of propaganda and inciting hatred apart from cooking up fictitious names that had the potential to foment communal trouble and has repeatedly been exposed by police of different states over concocted information.

People are outraged, her tweets are routinely reported for spreading hate and falsehoods. But it seems, this is not enough for Twitter India to take action against the account.

In January 2018, a schoolbus carrying children was attacked in Gurugram. The Karni Sena cadre was involved in this incident but Madhu Kishwar tweeted that Muslims were among the attackers and even mentioned five names. The Gurugram police later clarified that no Muslim boys were involved in the acts of vandalism on a Haryana roadways bus and a schoolbus.

In May 2018, she made a false claim that the 'DG of J&K actually suspended the SP who killed Burhan Wani in an encounter. It was a long tweet and accused the DG of 'playing doormat to jehadi politicians'. The J&K police expressed shock and said that it 'concocted information being shared and that no SP ha been suspended'.

In fact, she has been tweeting in this manner for a long time. Often, she doesn't express regret or delete tweets even when she is informed that the information is fake and can cause trouble or affect law-and-order. Now, she has a made an offensive statement, targeting Indian Muslims.

She said that Muslims will need to prove their credentials and deserve certification given their track record in post 1947 India, not to talk of earlier centuries. But Kishwar is not alone. Activist Saket Gokhale has made a formal complaint to the Delhi police in this regard.

Gokhale, a former foreign correspondent, filed the plaint with Lajpat Nagar police station. Umpteen Twitter handles like @ippatel, @payal_rohatgi and @abhishek_mishra also escape action despite tweets that spread hate and are in conflict with law.

Mishra had even given a call to Hindus to start economic boycott of Indian Muslims, a statement that is clearly in violation of the law of the land, and against constitutional provisions. But despite criticism and media reports, Twitter didn't act. The objectionable tweet was not removed.

Patel had claimed that 280 minor orphan girls were impregnated in 'Teresa missionary orphanage' and babies trafficked abroad. The state police said that the claim was completely false. Yet, despite outrage, Twitter India appears indifferent. These are just a few names, the list of serial fake news peddlers is long.

When communal hatemongers are given a free run, it normalizes hate. It is similar to Nazi-style propaganda. The role of media and social media platforms in demonizing communities and rumour-mongering that led to mass killings and genocides from Rwanda to Myanmar.

The screenshots of these tweets are then shared on Facebook and WhatsApp. Also, failure to take action, reduces the bar and emboldens more and more people to spread hatred and propaganda apart from sharing fake news. There is no direct link to report 'Fake News' on Twitter either. No wonder, Twitter faces a serious credibility crisis in India.

In a society where rumours and propaganda has led to violence, and where mere rumour of child lifters on prowl has led to lynchings across India, the role of Twitter in allowing these serial offenders to spread hate, is extremely worrying.

On Tuesday, people asked police to take action against Madhu Kishwar. But the objectionable Tweet remains. It may may be deleted later or may remain but on each occasion, the damage is done--propaganda or falsehoods are spread and there is no fear of action. For an organisation that has repeatedly vowed to fight hate, it is a shame. One is forced to ask--Isn't Twitter complicit in spreading hate in India?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.