Even as India is pulling together to fight a global epidemic, motivated agents are going to extraordinary lengths to spread rumours and panic.
Earlier today, a Twitter account with a named Vasundhara Sangwan claimed that India doesn’t have enough N95 masks. “Wearing this mask for more than a week, as we don’t have enough forget the required N95 masks. Have been reusing after washing,” it claimed. The account also attached a picture of a female doctor wearing a mask.
The account had claimed to that be of a doctor: its bio read Doctor, MBBS, MD (in progress), Ex-medical Officer Haryana Govt,, Ex-Junior Resident @BPS Govt. Medical College for Women, FIGHTING FOR A HEALTHY WORLD”
With a bio, and picture, and a sensational claim of the shortage of masks in place, the tweet quickly got picked up by people who regularly bash the government. It was retweeted by Alt News cofounder Pratik Sinha, and got 1,452 retweets.
But at this point, someone pointed out that the Twitter handle of the account was “vikrumaditya”, which seemed to be a man’s name.
Twitter users dug up the history of the account, and discovered that until a year ago, the name on the account was Vikramaditya Sangwan, and had a picture of a man.
As soon as this was revealed, the account deleted all its tweets, removed its bio, and also removed the profile picture.
While this fake account was busted quickly, it had the potential to snowball into something much larger. Even while the account was briefly up, it managed to get retweeted by the cofounder of what claims to be a “fact-checking website,” and was also contacted by a journalist from The Print.
Had eagle-eyed twitter users not quickly caught the discrepancies in the story of the Twitter user, this could easily have blown into a major rumour and spread panic. While this account has been neutralized, one cannot help but wonder — who are these people who’re going to such lengths to spread panic at this time of crisis?