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A Year In Misinformation: Top 10 Myths And Fake News We Debunked In 2021

What a year it has been! With the pandemic wreaking havoc for the second year in a row, to the sudden and tragic demise of the Chief of Defence Staff of India in a chopper crash, much has played out in 2021. As you know, with more news comes more misinformation. While some of it may seem like a sinister attempt to spread misinformation with malicious intent, others appear plain absurd. 

So What Made (Fake) News/Misinformation In 2021?

With a raging pandemic sweeping across the globe, COVID and the vaccine roll out were the main targets of misinformation in 2021. From the alleged death of Pfizer CEO’s wife due to vaccination complications to the posts claiming that Omicron was one of the many variants in a pre planned sequence of mutated strains, misinformation surrounding COVID has been many. This was closely followed by other health and technological topics. While religion and politics also found ample space in misinformation campaigns.

Without further ado, here are the top ten misinformation/fake news that were debunked by Newschecker:

#1 Viral Video Claims Worms Found In Bananas From Somalia 

Helicobacter misinformation

A video showing a man peeling a banana and extracting white worms from the fruit was widely shared on social media claiming, ‘Bananas containing poisonous worms have reached the market.’ Newschecker’s investigation found the claim to be false and the video is not from India, and FSSAI authorities confirmed exclusively to Newschecker that the claim was fake.

Read our full fact check here

#2 Canadian Website Says Pfizer CEO’s  Wife Is Dead Due To Vaccine Complications

Pfizer CEO

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been several conspiracy theories and fake narratives surrounding the genesis and spread of the virus. And since the discovery of COVID vaccines, the misinformation campaign has been directed against vaccines and vaccine big pharma companies , undermining their credibility and efficacy. Pfizer saw itself targeted consistently on social media, with many users raising questions on its vaccine trial data, while others questioned the efficacy of the vaccine. One such misinformation campaign launched against Pfizer involves the claim that the company’s CEO Albert Bourla’s wife, Myriam Bourla has “died from complications of the COVID-19 vaccine”.

A website called Conservative Beaver, which previously published another fake claim that Bourla was raided by the FBI, also claimed that in addition to Myriam Bourla, another recipient of the vaccine also lost her life in New Zealand. Speaking exclusively to Newschecker, Pfizer denied the reports and informed that Myriam Bourla was healthy and alive.

Read the full article here

#3 Did Japan Cancel Microwaves? 

Are microwaves hazardous for health? A WhatsApp forward claiming that the Japanese government was doing away with microwaves due to its hazardous effect went viral on the chat platform. The lengthy forward titled ‘End of the Microwave industry’ further claims that the decision was backed by a study from Hiroshima University,  which said that microwaves cause greater harm than atomic bombs. The same has also been widely shared on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. A fact check by Newschecker has found this claim to be, no surprises- false.

Read the full article here

#4 TATA Group Giving Away Free Car As Part Of Its 150th Anniversary Celebration, Claims Viral Link 

TATA group 150th anniversary

People love freebies and cashing-in on this, a viral post claiming the TATA Group is celebrating its 150th anniversary, with a link to “participate in the event to win a car” was widely shared on WhatsApp messenger.  Newschecker received the same claim on our WhatsApp tip line and also found similar posts widely shared on Facebook and Twitter. But a fact check revealed that the claim was fabricated and that no such ‘celebration’ was put out by the organisation.

Read the full article here

#5 Did UAE Based Firm Win Tender For Sabarimala’s Aravana Payasam?

A viral Facebook post claiming that the Kerala government has handed over the tender to manufacture the Aravana Payasam (an offering to the deity at the Sabarimala hill shrine) to a UAE based firm was widely shared on social media platforms. The post, which carried an image of a packaged food material with a label- ‘Aravana Payasam’ & ‘halal’ and additional text in what appears to be Arabic. A fact check by Newschecker revealed that the claim is not true and misleading.  

Read the full article here

#6 Video Of Syrian Helicopter Shot Down In Idlib Shared As Footage Of Gen Bipin Rawat’s Chopper Crash

Hours after the reports of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat’s chopper crash came in, several users posted a video of an Mi 17 bursting into flames mid air before circling down to the ground and disintegrating in the process. Newschecker has found the video to be from Syria and not related to the tragic incident involving the CDS that took place in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

Read the full article here

#7 Photoshopped Image Of Swami Vivekananda Playing Cricket For Calcutta Town Club 

A picture of Swami Vivekananda went viral on social media showing him in action while bowling a cricket ball in what looks like a domestic league cricket match. The photo claimed that Swamiji played for the Calcutta Town Club in 1884. Many people have shared this post on Facebook and those posts have gotten many likes and made the post go viral. Here are some screenshots of the said post. Newschecker found that the image was in fact an edited image of the England and Yorkshire left-arm bowler Headley Variety.

Read the full article here

#8 US Supreme Court Has NOT Ruled That Vaccinated People Are Products Or Patented Goods

Can people be patented goods? According to this viral claim, the US Supreme Court ruled that vaccinated people were products, patented goods, and no longer human. One such user tweeted this claim with hashtag #transhuman and an image that reads, “BREAKING – In the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that vaccinated people worldwide are products, patented goods, according to US law, no longer human.” A fact check by Newschecker has found the  claim to be false.

Read the full fact check here

#9 Is PM Modi Bowing To IAS Officer Arti Dogra In This Viral Post? 

Narendra Modi

BJP spokesperson Shaina NC was among many social media users who shared an image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi bowing to a differently abled woman, identifying her as ‘Aarati Dongra… IAS officer who was the chief architect behind renovation of Kashi Vishwanath temple’. But the person the Prime Minister is seen bowing down to is not IAS officer Arti Dogra, who is the special secretary to the CMO of Rajasthan, but one Shikha Rastogi.

Read the full fact check here

#10 Dubious Ad Cites Fake Indian Express interview with Azim Premji To Mislead People Into Investing In Bitcoin  

The digital investment methods of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin have gained momentum in the recent past with the likes of Elon Musk supporting the new digital currency. The internet is full of information (and misinformation!) about these new investment methods. But suspicious platforms are also making their way into misleading and duping people.

One such Facebook advertisement about Azim Premji promoting bitcoins has been doing rounds since September 2021. The advertisement redirects the user to an article titled “SPECIAL REPORT: Azim Hashim Premji’s Latest Investment Has The Government And Big Banks Terrified”. The article, supposedly from ‘The Indian Express’, refers to  an interview  on the show ‘Good Morning India’ on NDTV co-hosted by Sonal Mehrotra Kapoor who, the article claims, invited WIPRO Founder Azim Premji, to share tips on building wealth.

A fact check by Newschecker has found it to be an imposter website posing as the Indian Express. It attempts to mislead people into investing into the website named ‘Bitcoin Loophole’ by sharing a fake interview with businessman Azim Premji.

Read our full fact check here


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Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon
Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

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