Indian Twitter saw an extensive campaign on Sunday calling for the fact-checking website Alt News to be banned from the social media platform. # was the top trending at one point, with over 18,000 posts calling for the fake news busting website to be banned immediately.
Among those trending the hashtag were blue-checked Hindutvawadis such as Rameshnaidu Nagothu, the state secretary of the BJP in Andhra Pradesh, who accused Alt News of “spreading fake news, building anti-Hindu propaganda, running anti-national campaigns, giving voice to violent forces and anti-govt fake narrative”.
It’s unclear what sparked the campaign. Most of the users that accused Alt News of spreading fake news did not cite a specific example.
Reacting to the campaign, Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News, said it was the handiwork of the “copy-paste brigade”, meaning a network of mainly Hindu supremacist Twitter users who use the same tweet phrases to ensure a certain hashtag becomes popular. This phenomenon was widely seen during the Twitter campaign demanding action over actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Thus, when the verified account of Santosh Singh, vice president of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, said, “Retweet And Repeat With Me”, that is exactly what followed.
By evening, however, the hashtag was trending in response, with over 10,000 tweets. Users even tweeted at Pratik Sinha showing they had in fact donated to the platform.