MUMBAI (Reuters) – With India and Pakistan standing on the brink of war this week, several false videos, pictures and messages circulated widely on social media, sparking anger and heightening tension in both countries.
The video of an injured pilot from a recent Indian air show and images from a 2005 earthquake have been taken out of context to attempt to mislead tens of millions on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and its messenger service, WhatsApp.
The spurt of fake news comes after New Delhi this week launched an air strike inside Pakistan, the first such move in over more than decades. India says the attack destroyed a militant camp run by the group that claimed responsibility for killing 40 paramilitary troops in Indian Kashmir on Feb 14. Pakistan denied there had been any casualties in the attack.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed nations peaked with both sides claiming they’d shot down each other’s fighter jets on Wednesday, and Pakistan capturing an Indian pilot.
As claims and counter claims poured in from both sides, social media became a hotbed of unverified news, pictures and video clips, according to fact checkers.
Partik Sinha, co-founder of one such fact-checking website, Alt News, said it had received requests to verify news from journalists and people on social media.
“It’s been crazy since Tuesday. There is so much out there that we know is fake, but we’re not able to fact-check all of it,” Sinha said.
A Facebook group that says it supports Amit Shah, the chief of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), posted images on Tuesday of the alleged destruction caused inside Pakistan by the Indian air strike.
Three photos posted on the group page showed debris from a destroyed building and bodies and have been shared hundreds of times.