By: Soumadip Dey
Claim: A message has been circulated on WhatsApp that claims the BBC has carried out an opinion poll which predicts that the BJP will win the upcoming elections in Rajasthan.
Source: WhatsApp, Facebook.
What Happened: A message is being circulated via various WhatsApp groups that the BBC has conducted an opinion poll in Rajasthan. According to its results, the BJP will win the elections in the state.
The message predicts that the Congress would have won 160 seats if the elections had been held in June 2018, but public opinion has since shifted and by December 2018, the BJP will win more than 145 seats in the 200 seat assembly, giving them a thumping absolute majority.
The message ends with the following words: ‘If this will continue On 11 Dec we might see Congress 50, BJP 145. Narendra Modi has single-handedly rescued Rajasthan for the BJP from the jaws of defeat. No matter what level of anti-incumbency there is, he can beat it all just like he did in Gujarat. No amount of media and Cambridge Analytica propaganda can match the trust people have in him.’ ~BBC International’
The message has a preview of the BBC website, and also provides a BBC link to prove it is authentic.
Facts: The link provided in the message is completely misleading because it does not take the readers to any such story by the BBC news portal. Instead the link: https://www.bbc.com/news
actually leads to the home page of the BBC website, where they publish their daily stories and so forth.
By adding a link to the BBC home page, the message attempts to add a layer of authenticity and validation by leveraging the BBC brand. However the opinion poll was not conducted by the BBC, as they have a policy of not conducting election polls in foreign countries. They also never published a story claiming to have done so. Moreover, the Rajasthan legislative assembly has 200 seats, whereas the sum total of seats mentioned in the ‘BBC poll’ is 205, clearly indicating that it is a work of fictionalized propaganda.
The message has also now started spreading on Facebook, as more and more people receive the false message through WhatsApp groups.
Conclusion: Earlier during the Karnataka state elections, a similar message was circulated using the BBC homepage. This is an old but useful trick, making a false propaganda message appear authentic by hooking it to a well-known and trustworthy source. At that time BBC has issued a clarification that it does not conduct pre-election surveys.