Internet hoaxes are a common phenomenon these days, They often start of as a tweet or a whatsapp message which morphs into a full blown email and sometimes even a media story. Just a few months back we had shown how a whatsapp message became a viral media story thanks to a media portal called “Janta Ka Reporter”. This time, the joke is on them.
Last week we had reported how a satire site “Junta Ka Reporter” had emerged which parodied the style and type of stories usually carried by the original Janta Ka Reporter. Eventually, the original site got Twitter to suspend the Twitter account of the parody. But the parody site by itself was still functioning. And now one such parody story from this parody site has been taken as gospel truth by many across the world.
Taking a jibe at the format of “UNESCO declares Indian anthem as best” or “Indian PM as best”, the parody Junta Ka Reporter hosted the following story on 4th July 2016:
The story had everything a real story would have: a source location of the news, an image of the purported certificate and a tone and tenor of real story. It only missed one thing a real story would have: the mention of a source or a news agency. What the site does have though is a clear disclaimer:
“Disclaimer: You seriously believe this shit is real? Before you sue us, do a favor to your intelligence and realize that it is a satire website. Everything published here is made up. But if you are still that stupid and hurt, we are sorry.”
And what was a satirical post has now become a viral story across media sections all over the world. The Junta Ka Reporter story itself has over 1.5 lakh shares on facebook. Besides, countless sites have quoted this parody story as a source. And there is no end to the popular personalities who have shared this news as if it were true.
Probably the biggest institution to fall prey for this hoax has been the National Radio of Pakistan. Today evening Radio Pakistan tweeted this from its official handle:
UNESCO declares Islam as the most peaceful religion of the world https://t.co/7h4ihNUrWa
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) July 11, 2016
The link in the above story contained a full-fledged story on the same topic:
This is the official site of the official radio channel of Pakistan! And oddly the story cites no sources and no links. This is a complete recipe for disaster since now this site will become a source for many other sites who would believe, quote and report this “news”.
The problem has apparently reached such a stage that even UNESCO had to come out with a clarification denying the existence of any such certificate:
Even UNESCO notes that Junta Ka Reporter is nothing but a satirical site and that the content there in is completely fake!
This entire episode shows that Indian media is not alone. The general standards of reporting across the world are falling and even the basic level of fact check is not being carried out by media houses. Social media users could be exempted from this indictment since it is not their job to fact-check a story, although they could have checked whether the site was a satirical one or not, especially if they were sharing the original Junta Ka Reporter story.