After cooking gas prices rose steeply in India, an image was shared thousands of times on social media alongside a claim it shows a news report detailing how a spokesman from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made nonsensical remarks about the price of gas cylinders. The posts prompted criticism of the spokesman from some social media users. But the purported news report was not published on a genuine news site. There have been no official reports that the spokesman made such remarks as of July 18, 2022.
The image -- shared more than 1,000 times -- appears to show him during a live television news appearance.
But the purported report does not carry the logo of a specific news channel and misspells the spokesman's name as "Sandip Patra".
India has seen a sharp increase in prices of cooking gas in recent months, the Mumbai-based Economic Times newspaper reported.
Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on July 12, 2022
Comments on the posts suggested some social media users believed the image shows a genuine news report.
One user wrote: "Whenever this man opens his mouth, he says something corrupt, after all, why doesn't he use his brain?"
Another user said: "This government is only for sucking the blood of the poor, so poor people should not even eat food in such a time of inflation."
In fact, the image does not show a genuine news report.
'Intended for humour'
A keyword search on Google found the fabricated image corresponds with a template of a meme generator called Break Your Own News.
According to its website, Break Your Own News allows users to add photos and write their own headlines in order to generate images that appear to be breaking news reports.
The app is "intended for fun, humour and parody", the website states.
A reverse image search on Google found the photo of Patra featured in the misleading posts has previously circulated in local news reports since February 2020, including here.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in one of the misleading posts (left) and the meme generator template (right) with corresponding features highlighted by AFP:
Responding to the misleading posts, Patra told AFP: "This fake news is being spread using my picture. I haven't said anything like that. This picture was wrongly shared on social media."