Friday 19th July 2024,
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A tweet, a post, a fact check: how to erase a Hindu voice online

A tweet, a post, a fact check: how to erase a Hindu voice online

Today Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus (VBH) on twitter was threatened by an alleged ‘fact checker’ @TheGuyFromBklyn is a guy with no followers and who follows only one handle: @DefMil- Bangladesh Defence Observer (BDO). It was a small thing that reminds of the Bangladeshi Hindu pogrom last year when ISKCON and other Bangladeshi Hindu accounts were arbitrarily suspended all due to a ‘wrong post’ when they were the main handles sending information out into the world about hundreds of attacks on Hindus during Durga Puja, all over the country.

Today, Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus used an image of a fire for a post about ’18’ Islamists being caught after ‘setting fire to Hindu homes and temples in Bagerhat’. This is shared next to a photo of the men with police. Clearly the arson image is intended as a stock photo as Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus has used it numerous times before. Given what happened on Twitter to ISKCON during the Bangladeshi pogrom, the threat and the allegations in the fact check was taken seriously by HHR_Media. HHR_Media fact checked the fact check claims and this is what we found.

 

The First Post

https://twitter.com/VoiceOfHindu71/status/1515200353519632389?s=20&t=nERIGldXczO5iTTDbX7fqA

Reply by @TheGuyFromBklyn

Second threat

Both comments claim ‘we have been watching/tracking your page’, insinuating it is run by RAW and demand the account is taken down.

If by ‘we’, this guy (who is not) from Brklyn means ‘himself’, then it is him running ‘rumour scanner’. Is it true though? It is up to ‘Rumour scanner’ to tell us.

The Guy From Brklyn

The Guy From Brklyn is a Bangladeshi Muslim from personal details in his tweets. 

Bangladeshi (Above)

Majority above means belonging to majority ‘Muslim’ demography.

Ironically his bio calls himself ‘the real deal’ by which he probably means ‘real incel’.

Some fact checkers would stop here and just discredit the source, however since nothing stacks up, it’s possible ‘rumour scanner’ has nothing to do with this Hindu trolling misogynist.

What did Rumour Scanner claim?

Recently a video has spread on various social media outlets, titled “Breaking News, many Hindu houses are set on fire by the miscreants in Amorbunia village of Morrelganj Upazila in Bagerhat district. The Police Super has started visiting the area”

The ‘rumour scanner’ article does not, as Bklyn claims, fact check the image at Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus. There is a link in the provided images to other fact checkers who have criticised the use of the fire pic in the context of these claims.

Examples from ‘rumour scanner’ are below. Two videos that were still on Facebook had a cover warning that the posts were ‘partly false’ according to India Today (both) and Boom Bangladesh on the one.  

India Today located the video from the examples by ‘rumour scanner’. They are from an 18 March 2020 post of a fire in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The video was uploaded to Facebook by Mohammed Naeem Bhuniya. It says “fire breaks out at kavirajbari prakash hindu house on the west side of the samiti haat…this incident was actually at a place called Kavirajbari Hindu para of Samityhat in Fatikchari Upazila of Chattogram.” The fire broke out from an electrical fault.

On Sunday March 20 2022 a report on a fire in the same place is made in a Bengali news site as fact checked by AFP Bangladesh

 

Bizarre twist: Boom Bangladesh

The examples of rumour scanner on facebook have warning covers as partly false- not by rumour scanner but Boom and India Times.

Images in the fact check of Boom are not the same images cited by ‘rumour scanner’. Therefore @GuyFromBrklyn is making empty threats.

Here are the images fact checked by Boom Bangladesh.

Boom Bangladesh  did check the image of the fire used by Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus.

The image is a still frame from 13 seconds in a video of ‘Fire in Old Dhaka’ uploaded to YouTube on 26 December 2013 by ‘Bangladesh in my eyes’. 

The same still shot is on many Bangladesh websites used as stock image for arson via Google reverse image search.

The finding of Boom Bangladesh about this image is that it “does not depict the recent incident in Bagerhat which is misleading.”

So the image is wrong but the claim that there was an attack on at least one Hindu home and a temple in Bagerhat is true.

Daily Star reported what happened here.

Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/crime-justice/news/hindu-house-bagerhat-vandalised-over-rumoured-facebook-post-hurting-religious-sentiments-3003316

A mob of 60-80 unidentified men had marched to the house in a Hindu neighbourhood to take vigilante action against the father of a Hindu boy for allegations the youth, Koushik Biswas’ social media post had insulted the prophet. The Daily Star reports:

On rumors of “hurting religious sentiments”, a Hindu house was vandalised, a haystack was set on fire, and a temple’s fence was destroyed last night in Bagerhat’s Morrelganj upazila.

The incident occurred around 9 pm yesterday at Romani Biswas’ house in Amarbunia village near Sundarbans, Bagerhat Superintendent of Police, KM Ariful Islam, told The Daily Star.

The Facebook posts regarding Amarbunia are misleading however Facebook placed a filter over them rather than have them removed because they are ‘partly false.’ There were two incidents and the details are conflated.

According to The Dhaka Times, 18 arrests were made, one of which was Koushik Biswas who will be imprisoned for one month on charges related to the alleged blasphemy FB post for which he had already apologised in a community meeting. 

Daily Star Bagerhat April 2022

https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/crime-justice/news/hindu-house-bagerhat-vandalised-over-rumoured-facebook-post-hurting-religious-sentiments-3003316

Bagerhat Kousik House

Source: Home of Bishwas family_https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2022/04/12/hindu-youth-in-custody-after-facebook-post-spurs-violence-in-bagerhat

The net result is that the videos and the comments are half truth or misleading.

 

@TheBoyFromBrklyn vs Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus

Coming back to the troll post, it is unclear who ‘we’ means although considering the mob mentality of the perpetrators, it comes across as a threat by the perpetrator class. Twitter already removed important voices of Bangladeshi Hindus like the ISKCON accounts over supposedly incorrect media content. If there are no fact checks done on a post, and no media reports, in times of chaos, conflict and crisis it can be near impossible to verify. What should an account do in such an instance? Not share it? Allow an atrocity to pass by that is never known to the outside world?

Hindus are caused to walk on eggshells and are often using English as third or fourth language. Fact check resources, time and skills are left to those who can afford to make them. There are accounts of the perpetrators of these kind of extremist offences however who do not appear to be ever breaking the twitter rules. How is it that the victims of their crimes are so easily and readily silenced over a tweet, a post or a fact check? Twitter should not expect everything to be done according to invisible rules. If a video is wrongly attributed in such chaos it need not mean immediately that the person sharing it does so knowingly nor that they intent is harmful or hateful. These incidents raised many questions over the methodology of twitter moderators and the power of those who can organise to mass report from accounts that are clearly set up for insincere purposes.

At the same time, Hindus who write on social media need to recognise there is a double standard applied and make every effort to report as accurately as possible due to the disproportionate emphasis on ‘fact checking’ Hindus during the times at which they are most under attack. Overall the finding on @TheGuyFromBklyn is:

  1. The claim to have fact checked the image uploaded by VBH is untrue. The images chosen by ‘rumour scanner’ are different and from another incident.
  2. The claim that the fire of Bagerhat was caused by an electrical fault is untrue. It was a fire lit by vigilante extremists attacking innocent Hindus over accusations against one.
  3. Fact checkers reported that there were 17 arrests of the attackers in addition to Hindu boy Kousik Biswas, 23 who is imprisoned over blasphemy accusations.
  4. The image that is posted is used as a stock image representative of a fire in Bangladesh however it fails to provide a caption. That is evident from scrolling VBH posts.
  5. The VBH post has a second image not mentioned by the troll of the prisoners. It is shared by RTV News here.

Source: RTV News

Synopsis

There are two events going on concerning arson. One did destroy 20 houses although it was said to be due to electrical failure. How does a spark from an electrical fault lay waste a whole village though? The other was conducted by a mob attack on a Hindu village where only a haystack was burnt but the house was demolished by the many hands of an angry mob, and a temple some distance away was also smashed. The men above are the alleged culprits bar one. What of the other 40-60 odd men? One person arrested is the Hindu son of the father whose home was dragged down. 

What is the point of factchecking a negligible Bangladeshi Muslim troll account who drops a threat and claims to be ‘watching’ VBH? Such accounts, as we saw over the course of the recent Ram Navami Hindu attacks are significant due to their connections, their organisational ability and their sophisticated synchronised twitter activity. Theoretically 100 such accounts exist that can attack VBH by mass reporting them for ‘fake news’.

The guy from brklyn also claim to be associated with ‘rumour scanner’. It is an example of how Hindus are bullied online and threatened whilst reporting on their own suffering. There are consequences for rumour mills like this. What we know from the systemic and institutionalised violence against Hindus in Bangladesh is that a single spark from a post like this can set off a chain of events that the Bangladeshi Government has proven time and time again it cannot control. And because it cannot be controlled and social media handles like Voice of Bangladeshi Hindus, or ISKCON are all the rest of the world has to peer inside the iron walls surrounding Bangladesh, it could cost lives if ‘fact check’ claims and unsubstantiated reports against handles who speak up against the violence against Hindus are erased by technicalities. If Twitter and Facebook are so easily blinded to the consequences and are willing to remove accounts without warning, if they refuse to reinstate them over minor errors like incorrect media attribution, then there is an anti-Hindu bias that must be addressed.

Reports, including those of fact-checkers have failed to contextualise the communications of these handles. Such reports are made within an overall sense of fear that can easily cause persons being continually gaslit to simply believe posts shared with them. So they did not fact check the claim? It sounds reasonable to Hindus because it is a common occurrence in Bangladesh. Did anyone fact check the ‘blasphemy allegation’ and isn’t that more important than attempting to shut down a Hindu voice for marginalised minorities of Bangladesh? Priorities are skewed.

Just last October 2021, 20 Hindu homes were burnt down over similar trumped up allegations of blasphemy spread on social media. Hundreds of attacks rapidly spread across the country. BDnews24 on that occasion used the same photo that Hindu accounts have been raked over the coals for now. This is used as a stock photo, including by VBH. Anyone who follows them can see that.

The photo is used by the Bangladesh police here and below. The question is, if the media or social media fail to write a disclaimer that the image is for representational purposes only, should it mean their website, their twitter account, facebook or other accounts should be shut down without warning? If that is the case then why are the factcheckers not factchecking the Bangladesh government and getting their account shut down? 

In the past two weeks throughout Nav Samvatsar to Ram Navami and now Hanuman Jayanti, violent attacks against Hindus were conducted across the northern half of India. Prominent Muslim outlets like Mektoob Media, Milli Gazette, The Siasat Daily, Hindutva Watch and the leftist platform NDTV put out streams of disinformation. Accounts linked to the Popular Front of India worked with NGOs, academics and journalists in the US and Europe to produce volumes of propaganda that fabricated a narrative of Muslims being attacked by Hindus. When it was muslims who were arrested, that too was made a case for anti Muslim sentiment.

Hindus are forced to walk on eggshells whilst watching their community being stonepelted, attacked with guns, knives and swords, fire bombed, raped, properties burnt down, according to the propagandists all because they dared to chant and dance to Jai Sri Ram on Ram Navami.

There are too few persons fact checking the fact checkers. The police have done a remarkable job across the country attempting to curb online hatred although twitter appears to enable accounts of extremists to saturate the ecosystem with automated retweets spaced a minute apart from hundreds of accounts — all sharing verbatim, preloaded tweets beginning with members of the Popular Front of India.

This was a form of secondary violence. A denial campaign to suffocate the voices and media of victims. Yet even America decided to comment. It is unclear what ‘human rights’ they referred to. Was it the human rights of Hindus? 

Source: https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2021/10/18/brutality-against-hindus-continues-homes-torched-in-rangpurs-pirganj

No, there were not ‘many Hindu homes‘ burnt down in Bagerhat, not this time. The account however could just as well have simply got their wires crossed. The 20 houses burnt was an accident. It does not reduce the gravity of what has happened to the other properties, indeed drawing all the attention to this point has the effect of diminishing the case of the other. There was no critique in any case by fact checks of VBH and if they did they would see it is not serious but sarcastic saying the offenders will be out again, within the community in a few days. If that happens it will be the victim of all this, Vishwas, who remains in jail.

A polite message would have sufficed remembering this is a people under significant pressure from the majority to conform, to behave, to be good, to say the right things exactly as their masters dictate. Previous complaints like this have led to sudden suspensions for the misattribution of a photograph or video. In this case there is a digit wrong in the number of arrests, a likelihood they have simply mixed up the two incidents. Having policies and practices that allow people under severe duress to correct their tweets would be more conducive to platforming the voices of the those who are enduring atrocities.

Throughout these reports, accounts and criticisms, the images speak louder than the words. The words are empty, clinical and heartless. What we see is that Muslim villagers from all around this predominantly Hindu pocket, marched into their village with premeditated intent to punish them all for what they imagined the boy to have done wrong by their God.

They converged in the night, setting fire to the haystack which could have easily spread. We see that the home is devastated, torn down and the contents are very likely to have been destroyed with that. Reports have called this ‘vandalism’ which sounds like spray paint or a few stones through a window. It is not. It is utter destruction.

The home is one without solid walls. They are woven from thatch which is torn and battered, pulled out across the yard. There is a rusty old tin on roof, much of it caved in with broken rafters. This is a family impoverished enough. Now they have a home that is unlivable and reports say that the entire community feel uncertainty. None of the reports tell us how that family will recover, whether the 17 arrested are going to pay for it and build it back up.

We don’t hear exactly what happened to the temple some miles from the home, nor why that was attacked too. The temple did not have a murti installed and we are not  told why a temple has no deity.

Where is the line in the minds of these mobs where vigilante retaliation for a perceived crime should stop? We know it often results in death by mob justice in Muslim majority countries. We know the allegations levelled at them are so often untrue. 

There is no discussion on the fact that a 23 year old Hindu boy is imprisoned for next to nothing. Nor are we told what he said or did to be subject to such violence. There is an accusation that the boy had been imprisoned in India for similar comments, however there are no fact checks on that claim. There is no discussion on how it is, or why members of the majority community felt they had a right to descend, so much so that nobody even covered their identity. 

To what end will the radicalised elements of the Islamist Bangladeshi community continue to assert their supremacist dominion over an already drastically depopulated, extremely at risk, indigenous Hindu community who are on the brink of losing everything? This tweet we are talking about was nothing. It is a nobody account. It has no friends, no real name, it is as insubstantial as a speck of dust. Just like the Facebook comment allegedly made Biswas ~ a 23 year old Hindu boy, jailed among his perpetrators from the crime of having a voice online. And of that, not a soul has spoken.

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