With the Karnataka assembly elections less than a month away, a large number of claims are being circulated on social media.
Claim 1: In a viral video, Karnataka's Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is said to be dancing to a Kannada song.
Claim 2: An opinion poll released by Today's Chanakya before Karnataka's main polls predicts a hung assembly
Claim 3: A State Intelligence report states that the Chamundeshwari assembly constituency is not a 'safe' one for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Claim 4: A report was released purporting to be the list of Congress candidates for the election. It appeared to have the seal of the Congress Party Karnataka General Secretary on it.
What Happened and the Facts:
A video that was shot in Bengaluru during a workshop on sustainable grains and millets that took place at Kanakapura Road on the 6th and 7th of March 2018, went viral on Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Twitter, claiming that it was of Karnataka's Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, dancing to a Kannada song. We traced the video from its original source, Anekatte Vishwanath, a Facebook user who shot the video live on Facebook at 9:17 pm on the 6th of March. The 9 minute long video has been watched around 45 thousand times, and has been shared about 21 times. The same video was also widely shared across other social media platforms.
The video claiming that the Karnataka Chief Minister was dancing to a Kannada song is totally false. The video was shot during a conference on sustainable grains and millets in Bangalore on the 6th and 7th of March, where a farmer called Channamahagowda, from the city of Mysore, performed the dance. Channamahagowda, whose facial expression, dress, shoes, and spectacles matched that of Siddaramaiah, was dancing to a famous Kannada movie song called 'Jeena tonic bottle? Kudiyo munche allaadsu?' The video was also shared via Facebook Live.
Another claim doing the rounds, mainly on WhatsApp, was based on an apparent poll conducted by Today's Chanakya, a well known psephological and political research organisation. According to this poll, the BJP would get 75 seats, the Congress would get 76 seats, and the JDS/BSP combine would get 70 seats.
Fact 2: The next claim, about a poll supposedly conducted by Today's Chanakya, is also erroneous. Today's Chanakya issued two tweets repudiating this poll. The first one stated "We have not released any Opinion poll for Karnataka. All polls in our name are fake. Pls retweet if possible, thanks."
In their second tweet, since the poll was still being circulated, they felt compelled to issue another denial. This tweet read "#TCPoll The fake survey in our name is still being circulated on "Whatsapp" in Karnataka. Requesting everyone to help us by retweeting this tweet, so that everyone is aware about the fake survey. Please do not believe the findings of this fake survey.
An alleged intelligence report made the rounds on social media as well. Supposedly signed by the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), the report claims that the Chamundeshwari assembly constituency is not a 'safe' one for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. It concludes with a recommendation by the State Intelligence Branch advising the Chief Minister not to contest from Chamundeshwari as the Vokkalinga population concentrated there could make it a tricky proposition. The document emerged and was circulated very soon after Siddaramaiah announced that he would be contesting the elections from the Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru.
Fact 3: The document being circulated as an apparent intelligence report is also a fabrication. The document claiming Chamundeshwari Assembly Constituency is not safe for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was supposedly signed by the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP). However, as the Chief Minister's Office clarified in a press release, there is no such rank in the State Intelligence Department. They also pointed out that reports by State Intelligence are written in Kannada, not in English.
Another document, claiming to be a leaked list of Congress candidates for the upcoming elections, received a great deal of traction and circulation on social media. The document appears to have the seal of the party, and the signature of senior leader Oscar Fernandes on the first round, and the signature of Madhusudhan Mistry, the head of the party's screening committee for the elections, on the second round.
Fact 4: Finally, the list of candidates for the Congress party that was supposedly leaked from the Congress High Command is also false. The day after it was circulated, Siddaramaiah issued a tweet from his official account stating that the AICC had not yet decided on the list of candidates for the election and that the list under circulation was fake.
In the case of the last two claims, we were unable to determine the original source of the documents. Circumstantially however, polished propaganda made with reasonably sophisticated techniques such as those used here would point to political rivals who have a large social media budget.
As Karnataka heads towards elections next month, it is only to be expected that social media will continue to be deluged with questionable claims as political parties seek to establish dominance and malign their opponents in the social media sphere. In this context, it is good to see that Facebook has partnered with an Indian fact checking organization specifically to combat 'fake news' in Karnataka. We will also be monitoring the situation closely and will debunk or verify subsequent claims that will be made as voting day draws closer.