Indian elections misinformation report: Political narratives, old and edited videos dominate trend

Indian elections misinformation report: Political narratives, old and edited videos dominate trend

By: Team Logically Facts&
June 12 2024

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Indian elections misinformation report: Political narratives, old and edited videos dominate trend

The 2024 Indian general elections were plagued by misinformation, false narratives, and propaganda aimed at misleading the electorate. (Image: Reuters/X/Logically Facts)

Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India for a third consecutive term after the seven-phase general election concluded on June 4, 2024. The elections, however, were plagued by misinformation, false narratives, and propaganda aimed at misleading the electorate.

Between February 1 and June 4, Logically Facts debunked 224 pieces of misinformation. And despite growing concerns around AI-generated content, our analysis revealed that cheapfakes (relatively cheap and simple manipulated media, made using basic editing or mislabelling), edited videos, and old footage were still the most common misinformation tools used to influence political narratives.

In this report, we examine:

  • The most dominant narratives during this period
  • The sources and targets of misinformation
  • The role of AI-generated misinformation in the polls

Most dominant narratives

Of the 224 fact-checks, 93—nearly 42 percent—were based on claims about the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Of these 93 stories, 75 were against the alliance, while 18 were in favor.

For instance, an edited video of Indian Home Minister Amit Shah was circulated before the polls, falsely claiming he promised to scrap reservations for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) if elected. Another edited video of Modi falsely claimed he promised to replace the Constitution with ‘Manusmriti,’ an ancient Hindu legal text.

Meanwhile, 103 fact-checks—nearly 46 percent—addressed narratives about the INDIA bloc (the principal opposition alliance). Claims included the Congress manifesto promising religion-based reservations and wealth redistribution and party leader Rahul Gandhi allegedly ‘confessing’ that Modi would be re-elected.

The remaining 28 stories included claims about political parties that were neither a part of the INDIA bloc nor the NDA and also claims that didn’t revolve around any political parties.

Screenshots of claims debunked during elections. (Source: Modified by Logically Facts)

We further categorized these stories based on underlying themes and found that communal and religious narratives accounted for 42 fact-checks.

For instance, several right-wing X (formerly Twitter) accounts and BJP leaders used a misleading report to propagate an oft-repeated narrative that the Muslim population would surpass the Hindu population in India.

Several opposition parties were targeted, including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the Shiv Sena (UBT). Notably, anti-Muslim rhetoric was prevalent in the election speeches of prominent BJP leaders, including the prime minister.

Screenshots of claims debunked during elections. (Source: Modified by Logically Facts)

We also fact-checked stories about “voter fraud” and Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Claims about electoral bonds were also debunked.

Source and targets of misinformation 

Our analysis showed that Modi was the leader most targeted with misinformation, followed by Gandhi. We debunked 38 claims about Modi and 26 about Gandhi.

While Modi was a target, he was also a source of misinformation. We fact-checked the prime minister at least six times during the election period for claims ranging from “nobody knowing about Mahatma Gandhi until a film was made about him” to the prime minister claiming he had never made any “Hindu-Muslim remarks.”

Other leaders targeted included Amit Shah (three times), Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (once), Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge (four times), TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (three times), and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (twice). We also fact-checked stories about AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, TMC leader Mahua Moitra, and YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Screenshots of claims debunked during elections. (Source: Modified by Logically Facts)

Accounts affiliated with political parties and politicians were often the source of misinformation. BJP’s official X account, for instance, shared a clipped video of Kharge. Congress-linked accounts shared a clipped video of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. AAP leader Devender Yadav and Congress chairperson of Social Media & Digital Platforms Supriya Shrinate shared a video falsely claiming that the BJP blurred the face of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister to focus on Modi.

Modi, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Adityanath, and Shah were among the BJP leaders who shared misinformation.

Several right-wing accounts known for spreading misinformation, such as MeghUpdates, UMANG, Arun Pudur, and Rishi Bagree, were found spreading false information aimed at the Congress.

Screenshots of posts by political parties, politicians, and right-wing accounts sharing false information. (Source: X/Screenshots)

Did AI-generated content wreak havoc?

Despite concerns about AI tools generating and altering visuals to spread misinformation during the elections, we found that merely four percent (eight stories) of the total 224 covered AI-generated content.

Some of the viral videos included clips of Congress leaders Gandhi and Kamal Nath, Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Ranveer Singh, and a clip of an Aaj Tak news segment predicting a win for AAP, modified with AI-generated voice clones to spread false information.

While the risk posed by AI-generated content during the elections was minimal, edited videos were often misattributed as AI-generated or “deepfake” content.

For example, Shah’s video against reservations was edited using simple video editing tools, but BJP and several mainstream media organizations labeled it (archived here and here) a “deepfake.”

Similarly, a video of BJP leader Dinesh Yadav attributing increasing unemployment in India to population growth was labeled a “deepfake” by party leaders and Yadav himself. However, Logically Facts analyzed the original footage and found no signs of manipulation.

Screenshots of posts sharing AI-generated content. (Source: X/Screenshots)

We also found that 97 or around 43 percent of the fact-checks focused on debunking old and unrelated images/videos shared to further false narratives.

For instance, a 2018 video of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat praising Congress’ role in India’s independence was linked to the elections. Similarly, a viral video of a brawl between Congress supporters was shared as a BJP leader being assaulted in Haryana. In the lead-up to the results, old videos of poll predictions and surveys were shared at least three times.

A large portion of the fact-checks (72) showed posts fabricated or edited to mislead voters. Of these, 42 were edited videos, 29 were doctored images, and one was edited audio.

Meanwhile, 15 fact-checks focused on narratives around exit and opinion polls predicting victory for either the BJP or INDIA bloc.

As with every election, this one was marred by misinformation and false narratives. Days after the results were declared, the volume of claims reduced, but social media users continued to share old and unrelated visuals to make false claims in reaction to the election results.

(Editor’s Note: The analysis is based on the fact-checks published by Logically Facts. It should be noted that while our approach is rooted in non-partisanship and objectivity, the data set utilized for this analysis does not purport to be comprehensive. The selection of fact-checks is influenced by our stringent editorial criteria, which may inadvertently affect the representation of misinformation trends. The intent of this analysis is to shed light on the most prevalent patterns of misinformation. Additionally, for this analysis, we have excluded fact-checks around Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.)

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