NDTV had yesterday reported that the union government has ‘rejected’ the proposal by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for the emergency approval to their respective vaccines ‘for the lack of data’. However, it was fake news. The Union Health Ministry had categorically dismissed the claims made by NDTV.
News I8 had also carried the fake news. Both had cited unnamed “sources” for their fake news. However, even after more than 12 hours of the government categorically denying their claims and calling it fake news, Twitter continues to spread the misinformation that was started by NDTV and News 18.
On Twitter’s home page, the right hand ‘explore’ panel that displays current trending topics and hashtags for the day, shares an update about the vaccines of SII and Bharat Biotech, except the update is fake, it is based on false claims that have already been debunked. The ‘news headline’ announces “Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India’s vaccine not considered for emergency approval due to the lack of data, News 18 and NDTV report.” The news update was displayed under the COVID-19 category.
For an uninformed reader, who has not read the government’s ‘fact-check’, the ‘news’ of the proposals being rejected carry an element of shock, with all the coverage regarding vaccinations starting in the UK and the world’s desperate wait for a vaccine for the Wuhan virus. However, by propagating a fake-news that has been already debunked by the government, it is not clear what exactly Twitter India is trying to achieve here. Do they want to mislead Indian citizens?
Upon clicking the dubious ‘news update’, one sees the same fake, misleading headline highlighted in bold letters, further spreading the false claims that SII and Bharat Biotech’s proposals have been ‘rejected’ by the government for the lack of data.
It is not that Twitter has not got the news that the fake news have been debunked. They are aware of it. They have, however, chosen not to highlight the actual news and perpetuate the false claims instead. So, the fact that the government has dismissed the claims made by NDTV and News 18, finds a place in the bottom, below the headline.
Further, Twitter again emphasises on the fake claim, by adding that ‘journalists’ have claimed that the request for emergency use was not considered due to lack of data. As evident here, Twitter considers the fake claims to be the actual ‘news’ and helps spread it as a news update. But the truth about the incident, that the government had asserted that the claims were baseless and the requests by the companies have not been rejected, is hidden below the headline.
The misleading ‘update’ was displayed on Twitter even till 9.30 am in the morning of December 10. More than 15 hours after the government’s fact-check.
Why is Twitter India trying to mislead Indian citizens about the Made In India vaccines?