A bulk of the COVID-19-related fact-checks in April were related to communal rumours, most of which were false allegations against Muslims of purposefully spreading the virus, claimed a report by BOOM Live.
BOOM Live, a fact-checking platform that works with social media companies like Facebook, said its study analysed 178 fact-checks on COVID-19 related to misinformation/disinformation around the pandemic from January to May this year.
“During April, a new trend was observed communally charged disinformation targeting Muslims became more frequent,” the report said.
By the end of April, a bulk of BOOM Live’s fact-checks (34 unique fact checks) were on communal rumours, it claimed.
The report further noted that after several members of the Tablighi Jamaat an Islamic missionary group tested positive, “Islamophobic rumours around them purposefully spreading the virus became viral on the internet”.
Other trends also witnessed in April were: spike in fake news related to politics, more lockdown related misinformation, more misinformation around Italy and rumours related to the economy.
The January-February period saw mostly rumours about China, with some false prediction theories and cures/prevention/treatments to COVID-19.
March witnessed fake news on Italy and lockdowns, as well as conspiracy theories regarding the virus being a bioweapon going viral.
BOOM Live said it did its first COVID-19 fact-check on January 25, while February saw major events and developments like the Delhi elections, Donald Trump’s India visit and the Delhi riots.
“There was a drastic change of topic in March, as more COVID-19 related misinformation went viral online,” it said.
BOOM Live said while most of the false or misleading claims were circulated with videos (35 per cent), there was also a significant number of text messages (29.4 per cent) being shared with fake cures, treatments or quotes from celebrities, along with images (29.4 per cent) that were either misrepresented or doctored.
“We also noticed a small number of audio clips (2.2 per cent) going viral with false contexts. A few of our fact-checks were on news reports (4 per cent) by mainstream media organisations. Most of these stories were found to make false claims against a particular community,” it added.
BOOM Live said it had seen a spike in text-based misinformation in March as false notifications and lockdown guidelines became viral.