India hunts ‘fake news’ spreaders after anti-Muslim attacks

Police in India are seeking the owners of about 100 social media accounts accused of sharing “fake news” after mob attacks on mosques in the north-east of the country.

Last month’s violence in Tripura state erupted on the sidelines of a rally for hundreds of followers of a rightwing Hindu nationalist group. The incident appeared to be a revenge attack prompted by the killing of several Hindu worshippers across the border in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Four mosques were vandalised and several Muslim-owned homes and businesses were ransacked.

According to police, people aiming to whip up further violence shared misleading images on social media after the incident.

“The accounts identified were spreading rumours, fake news, fake videos and fake photographs that were not even linked to Tripura,” a senior police officer in the state said on condition of anonymity.

“It is still too early but everyone will be identified and arrested for such fabrications.”

A police report released to media on Saturday identified 102 posts that it said were published by “unknown miscreants” to provoke conflict between “people of differing religious communities”.

Local media reports said police had written to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to demand the posts be removed.

Many of the offending posts had been removed by Sunday. Those that remained online largely appeared to be highlighting the plight of Muslims targeted in the attacks.

“Tripura is burning!” read a post by an Indian journalist based in Delhi, which was published on the day of the incident without accompanying photos or footage and highlighted in the police document.

Last month’s attacks put the state on high alert. Security forces guarded mosques and police banned gatherings of more than four people.

Tripura is ruled by the prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party.

Leaders of India’s minority Muslim community say they have increasingly been subjected to attacks and threats with little opportunity for official recourse since the Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014.

“The state government is yet to initiate any big action against those who perpetrated violence,” said a statement from a coalition of Indian Muslim groups on Saturday.

“Those police officers who did not prevent the violence should also be subject to inquiry and action must be taken against them,” it said.

Source: India hunts ‘fake news’ spreaders after anti-Muslim attacks

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