Bangalore: Did Bhagat Singh really give up his life to be associated with a rather notorious date? If thousands of tweets across the country are anything to go by, it sure seemed so. In a classic example of how Wikipedia and other powerful websites can be used to spread misinformation, Valentine’s Day started with ‘Bhagat Singh’ trending at number one position on Twitter in India.
The tweets and re-tweets on February 14 said Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged on this day. However, the actual date is March 23, 1931. Information of the same was altered on Wikipedia and posted on the Samajwadi Party’s Facebook page and on Twitter pages of celebrities such as actor R Madhavan, which only helped spread this piece of misinformation like wildfire.
Breaking the hype?
The tweets kept pouring in until later in the day. Messages stating that February 14 must be remembered for the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru first started the ball rolling. However, clarifications that this was just a “rumour” followed later in the day. Some people believed that this could even be a ploy to divert people’s attention from the V-Day hype.
“People started editing wrong information on the page and altering the day to February 14 from March 23,” said Tinu Cherian, Wikipedia administrator. “I had to correct the facts and edit the settings to protect it from unregistered users altering it,” he added.
Madhavan retweeted a message that urged people to spend a minute remembering the freedom fighters on this day. A similar message was posted on the Facebook page of the Samajwadi Party. Until last evening, the message had received two comments correcting the misinformation.
“Even I thought it was true, though I am not surprised it was just some misinformation. I forwarded a few messages that I received. Thankfully, I did not retweet any such material,” said Moksh Juneja, social media expert.
Tweets on Bhagat Singh moved to the third slot in the evening, with Valentine’s Day messages and Grammy Awards taking the lead.
“I was curious when I first saw the tweets. I later verified the information and tweeted that this wasn’t true,” said Santosh P, Tweeple and Digital advertising executive. “Similar rumours have spread on Twitter earlier too. Such sensational messages go viral quickly,” he added.