Bulk videos are being posted on social media platforms like Tiktok, Youtube, and Twitter to influence Muslims in India against following safe practices to contain coronavirus infection, a report prepared by open-source intelligence and fact-checking IT firm Voyager Digital Investigations has claimed.

According to the report, videos have been shot in both foreign locations and India and are being primarily posted on Chinese mobile video app Tiktok.

"TikTok, a Chinese origin video-sharing app is being used as a primary medium to create and spread videos with religious instigations against health advisories and fake information regarding coronavirus. These videos are further shared on other platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook," the report said.

The report submitted to India Cyber Crime Coordnination Centre, claims to have analysed over 30,000 videos in the last five days, said that most of these videos have been created with professional video editing softwares and originally uploaded accounts are being deleted after circulating them to other social media platforms.

"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 report said.

The researchers found that Hindi and light Urdu are being used as a language, Suggesting at India Specific Targeting of Audience.

"Several of the videos appear to be shot in Pakistan and Middle East but audio in Hindi have been superimposed to create a Hindi video," the report said.

When contacted, a Tiktok spokesperson condemned any and all efforts to spread misinformation and fear regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have been monitoring and systematically removing all content from our platform, including video, audio, and image that transgresses government advisories, as well as our own Community Guidelines.

"We are suspending or banning accounts, and, where necessary, are reporting the accounts to relevant legal authorities to ensure public safety," the spokesperson said.

A Twitter spokesperson said that the company is using machine learning and automation to take a wide range of actions on potentially abusive and manipulative content.

"To tackle misinformation related to COVID-19, we have broadened our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance, such as: 'social distancing is not effective'," the Twitter spokesperson said.

Twitter said that it will continue to prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people's health or well-being.

The company said that its automated systems have challenged more than 1.5 million accounts which were targeting discussions around COVID-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviours.

"We will use both technology and our teams to help us identify and stop spammy behaviour and accounts. We continue to remain vigilant," the spokesperson said.

Taking cognisance of fake news reports on the internet, the IT ministry has asked all social media companies to immediately remove false news spreading misinformation about coronavirus from their platform.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT issued an advisory on March 20 asking social media companies to inform their users about not posting false news that can create panic among the public and disturb social tranquillity.

Voyager recommended "timely identification, flagging and timely removal of such content. Twitter and Tiktok must take timely measures against such disinformation when human lives are at risk." PTI PRS

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