BJP-affiliated pages use journalist's picture to promote Centre's Swachh Bharat programme on Instagram
IndiaSpend reporter Swagata Yadavar who reported on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was shocked to see her photo being used by an Instagram handle named 'phir.ek.baar.modi.sarkar' for propaganda purposes.
Anonymous Instagram page called 'phir.ek.baar.modi.sarkar' has courted controversy after it used a journalist's image to 'showcase' the reality of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to promote the government's toilet building scheme.
IndiaSpend reporter Swagata Yadavar who reported on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was shocked to see her photo being used by an Instagram handle named 'phir.ek.baar.modi.sarkar' for propaganda purposes. She tweeted the photo which compares the percentage of toilets built during the previous UPA tenure till 2014 to the toilets built during the present BJP government till 2019.
When we tried to check the Instagram handle with the same name, we found out that there are three users with similar names. One which used Swagata's photo 'phir.ek.baar.modi.sarkar', the other one is 'phirekbaarmodisarkar_', and the third one is 'phirekbarmodisarkar'. All the accounts seem to propagate BJP and Prime Minister Modi.
We checked the Instagram account of 'phir.ek.baar.modi.sarkar' which is shown in Yadavar's tweet only to find out that this account was tagged by Instagram account bjmm.maharashtra. The name and description of this account describe it as 'The Official Account of BJP Minority Wing | Bharatiya Janata Minority Morcha (B.J.M.M) Maharashtra State'.
Interestingly, Yadavar tagged a twitter handle with which had a similar name called 'Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar' with handle @PhirEkBaarModi_. Though it's still not clear if this twitter account is in any way related to any of the Instagram handles. However, this twitter account explicitly states that it's "Followed by- @piyushgoyaloffc" which is the verified account of Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
A photo which I had posted on twitter during my field work in UP for #swachhbharatabhiyan story has been used by handle @PhirEkBaarModi_ on instagram. The graphic says open defecation was 39% in 2014 to 98% in 2018 ( (they mean toilet coverage). Firstly remove my pic @BJP4India pic.twitter.com/kCk4XeV7Vv— swagata yadavar (@swagata_y) March 10, 2019
The profile also features a link to another twitter account of a person named 'Prateek Malhotra'.
Interestingly, this person is followed by the verified accounts of Union Minister of state for Heavy industries Babul Supriyo, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani, BJP MLA from UP Vijay Mishra, and Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot.
The operations of the BJP IT cell were exposed by author Swati Chaturvedi in her book 'I am troll'. The book gives a detailed account of fake news, abuse and personal attacks carried by the BJP IT cell during the 2014 elections campaign. But the menace of fake news isn't restricted to BJP. Many fact-checking websites had earlier exposed fake photos of PM Modi and Yogi Adityanath spread by Congress and other opposition parties.