A day after social media was awash with a toolkit document, allegedly linked to the Congress party, which entailed a detailed plan of action for the Congress leaders and supporters to exploit the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the country and target the Modi government, the Congress party used the so-called fact-checker Alt News to declare the toolkit ‘fake’. The party gave documents to the propaganda website to make its case, and the site made some dubious analysis to claim that the document allegedly prepared by AICC Research Department is forged on a real letterhead.
An article published on Alt News, notorious for peddling propaganda and fake news, gave a clean chit to the Congress party by declaring that the ‘toolkit’ was created on a forged document. According to them, AICC Research Department chairman Rajeev Gowda gave documents and statements to Alt News to proclaim the toolkit to be fake.
Alt News declares toolkit ‘fake’ because the font on its letterhead differs from the Congress document it received
In its article, Alt News said the letterhead of the Central Vista document it received from the Congress party did not match with the one on the party’s COVID-19 toolkit and therefore the document was fake.
Just because the font on the header and footer of the two documents were different, Alt News declared that the toolkit was a fake document and not created by the Congress party. In all likelihood, the fonts could have deliberately been kept different for plausible deniability by the Congress party, which means to keep an opportunity open to distance from the document if it becomes public.
The Alt News argument claims that all the documents published by the Congress party have to use the same typographical style. This is a completely laughable argument, as even the same person can use different fonts in different documents. For a large organisation like Congress, it is normal if various documents published in different times use different fonts and style. It is not logical to declare a document fake just because the font styles are different.
Alt News claims since the strategies suggested in toolkit were already implemented, it is a fake document
Alt News then comes up with a ludicrous explanation to discredit the authenticity of the toolkit. It says the toolkit is a document to lay down strategies for the future course of action, adding that most of the things suggested in the toolkit had already taken place and therefore it not genuine. What Alt News fails to factor in is that though the document might have been just a day old for the general public on social media, it might as well had been in use by the Congress IT cell for some time, providing time enough time to implement the strategy listed in the toolkit.
As such, if events that preceded the toolkit expose are considered, it can be inferred with reasonable certitude that there was an uncanny symmetry between the past incidents and the plan of action suggested in the toolkit. The Congress party’s own behaviour, the responses of the leaders and the ecosystem in general dovetailed perfectly with the set of instructions issued in the toolkit.
The maligning of the Kumbh Mela as ‘super spreader’ event, the unwarranted attacks against PM Modi for the Central Vista project, international media’s attack against the Modi government and its COVID handling, there have been various incidents in the recent past that suggest that the Congress supporters were acting in accordance with what was asked of them in the toolkit. Yet, the Alt News article states that no social media strategy was implemented.
‘Fact-checker’ Alt News used factually incorrect data to declare the document to be fake
Twitter user and Consultant Ankur Singh, who goes by Twitter handle @iAnkurSingh conclusively debunked this shoddy attempt by the Alt News to help Congress dissociate itself from the toolkit. Alt News relied on peddling fake news to declare the toolkit to be a forged document. It argued that the toolkit suggested responding to SoS calls for COVID-19 only when the users tagged the official handle of the Youth Congress (IYC) and shared a screenshot of the one user who did not tag the IYC and yet received help. However, as it turned, the claim made by the Alt News was fake and the user had indeed tagged the official handle of the IYC. While the user had posted multiple tweets, Alt News deliberately chose only those tweets that didn’t tag the IYC handle, omitting the ones where the user had tagged the handle.
As expected Congress IT Cell worker @free_thinker has come up with stupid fact checks to say that Toolkit is Fake.— Ankur Singh (@iAnkurSingh) May 19, 2021
Alt News gives argument that Toolkit said help only if the person tags IYC and showed one SS that didn’t have tag.
But truth is, she did tag IYC and used hashtag. https://t.co/237kDyBigS pic.twitter.com/FpEZDP85fD
Next, Alt News said the toolkit is fake because the term ‘Modi Variant’ was used by people who were not Congress workers, as directed in the document. It argued that the ‘Modi Variant’ was used by the likes of Sonia Faleiro, Aparna Jain and Seema Chisti, and since they are not bona fide Congress workers, the document is fake.
Next Congress IT Cell worker @free_thinker gives argument that the term ‘Modi Variant’ wasn’t used by Congress workers, so document is Fake.— Ankur Singh (@iAnkurSingh) May 19, 2021
Toolkit said- “By Friendly Intellectuals and Opinion Makers”, for greater acceptability
It wasn’t meant to be used by Congress Workers. pic.twitter.com/mMx28GJTns
However, as per the document, the term “Modi Strain” was meant to be used by “friendly intellectuals and opinion-makers” and not for the Congress workers. Considering the political inclinations of Faleiro, Jain and Chisti, one can assert that they are inspired by the Congress party’s ideology.
Additionally, it must be brought to the notice here that the left-leaning propaganda website branded people like Anand Ranganathan as “BJP supporter” in the so-called fact-check article while insisting on people like Faleiro being ‘neutral’ because she has no Congress membership.
In another instance, Alt News defends the Congress party saying the ‘Super Spreader Kumbh’ was used only 15 times on social media websites and therefore, the toolkit is fake. However, the truth is that ‘Super Spreader’ adjective has been used hundreds of times by Congress supporters and sympathisers to describe the Kumbh Mela. It’s just that on many occasions, the users simply used different spellings, like using ‘Spreaders’ instead of ‘Spreader’. Just because Alt News didn’t check with all the possible variants of spellings people may use, they declared that the term was not used much.
Check next trick of @free_thinker to defend Congress.— Ankur Singh (@iAnkurSingh) May 19, 2021
Says ‘Super Spreader Kumbh” was used only 15 times, so can’t be a Toolkit.
Truth- It has been used hundreds of times.
Ppl used ‘Spreaders’ with additional ‘s’. Many used ‘event’ instead of Kumbh. https://t.co/xGDR8Uu7cJ pic.twitter.com/E5ahoj2JXf
The close association of Alt News with the Congress party was evident when one of the spokespersons of the party said that the authenticity of the toolkit would be ascertained by the ‘fact-checkers’. During a news debate yesterday, Congress leader Gaurav Kapoor said that whether the document is fake or not will be determined by ‘fact-checking’ websites.
कांग्रेस ने कल हो बोल दिया था हम नही FactChecker बताएँगे सही या ग़लत। इनको Toolkit कल ही मिल गई थी। 😂 pic.twitter.com/ZpJi7MNzw9— Facts (@BefittingFacts) May 19, 2021
It must also be noted that the documents to verify the authenticity of the toolkit was provided to Alt News by the Congress party, demonstrating a close association between the two entities. In response, the Alt News gave a clean chit to the Congress party and declared the toolkit to be fake, albeit, based on flimsy arguments. The fact that the so-called fact-checking website was working closely with a political party and actively assisting it to extricate itself from the political quagmire it has found itself also raises questions on organisations like IFCN (International Fact-Checking Network) that had certified it.