In late February, a video featuring a man in a skull cap attacking another man started to circulate on Twitter. “You can recognize them from their clothes,” tweeted Naveen Kumar, a politician with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a clear reference to the attacker’s presumed religious identity. As a spokesperson for the ruling party with more than 25,000 Twitter followers, Kumar is able to reach a wide audience for his Islamophobic messaging in the majority-Hindu country.
The tweet attracted the attention of Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, one of India’s most reputable fact-checking organizations. Every day, Zubair sifts through the hundreds of pieces of possible misinformation that gush through India’s social media and WhatsApp channels. The video Kumar posted to his Twitter page was already going viral by the time Zubair zeroed in on it.