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India hunts ‘fake news’ spreaders after anti-Muslim attacks

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New Delhi: Indian police are seeking the owners of around 100 social media accounts accused of sharing “fake news” after mob attacks on mosques in the country’s northeast.

Last month’s violence in Tripura state erupted on the sidelines of a rally for hundreds of followers of a right-wing Hindu nationalist group. The incident appeared to be a revenge attack prompted by the alleged killing of several Hindu worshippers across the border in Bangladesh.

Four mosques were vandalised and several Muslim-owned homes and businesses were ransacked. According to police, people aiming to whip up further violence shared misleading images on social media after the incident.

“The accounts identified were spreading rumours, fake news, fake videos and fake photographs that were not even linked to Tripura,” a senior police officer in the state told AFP on Sunday, on condition of anonymity.

“It is still too early but everyone will be identified and arrested for such fabrications.” A police report released to media on Saturday identified 102 posts that it said were published by “unknown miscreants” to provoke conflict between “people of differing religious communities”.

Local media reports said police had written to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to demand the posts be removed. Much of the offending posts had been removed by Sunday and AFP could not determine their content. Those that remained online largely appeared to be highlighting the plight of Muslims targeted in the attacks.

“Tripura is burning!” read a post by an Indian journalist based in New Delhi, which was published on the day of the incident without accompanying photos or footage and highlighted in the police document.

Last month’s attacks put the state on high alert, with security forces guarding mosques and police banning gatherings of more than four people. Tripura is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

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