The Kolkata Police has initiated legal action on conservative commentator Madhu Kishwar for a tweet she posted which contained a video of a procession of Muslims protesting, claiming it was from Kolkata even though it was reportedly from Bangladesh. West Bengal is up for state elections in May 2021, and political parties are currently campaigning there.
The video in question is actually from 2017 and was shot in Bangladesh — the protestors in the video were actually protesting against the violence against Rohingyas in Myanmar, according to fact-checking site AltNews. Kishwar has been a regular and steady perpetrator of fake news on Twitter, according to the Quint’s fact-checking initiative, WebQoof.
— Kolkata Police (@KolkataPolice) November 9, 2020
Kishwar has a verified account on Twitter with 2 million followers. At the time of publishing, the tweet had been taken down from Twitter, although it isn’t clear whether Kishwar or the platform deleted the tweet. However, Kishwar’s latest tweet at the time of publication, says that she was told the video was from Bangladesh. We have archived Kishwar’s contentious tweet here.
MediaNama had reached out to Twitter via email at 02:25 PM on November 9, and the tweet was present on the platform until then, and was retweeted more than 1,500 times and had over 2,700 likes. Kishwar had tweeted the video on November 8, at around 11 AM, and the platform didn’t react on it in over 24 hours, despite the traction it gained. We have asked Twitter why it allowed such a video to stay on the platform for as long without adding a label to it for being potentially misleading or didn’t take it down entirely. We have also asked them whether they will take any action against Kishwar’s account.
Activists also called out Twitter’s inaction in acting on the tweet. “Hello @Twitter, US is not the only country on the world map. There are other countries where serial disinformation is killing democracies. Where repeat offenders are not being de-platformed. Get your act together NOW [sic],” Pratik Sinha, co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews tweeted. The comparison with Twitter’s action towards misleading content in the US follows the platform’s flagging of multiple tweets by US President Donald Trump in the run up to the country’s presidential elections on November 3.
The Kolkata Police commissioner, Anuj Sharma couldn’t be immediately contacted for a comment about the grounds on which the police have launched this legal action, and what the next course of action for them will be. We have emailed Sharma our queries and will update the story when he responds.
Same video was shared by Tarek Fatah in August
Incidentally, Pakistani-Canadian writer Tarek Fatah had tweeted the exact same video in August, with the claim that it was not from “Karachi, Kashmir, or Kerala,” but from Kolkata, as documented by AltNews. Following Fatah’s tweet, the Kolkata Police had promptly tweeted that they were initiating legal action against him, after which Fatah issued an apology for spreading misinformation and took the video down.