Scripted video about street food contamination misleadingly shared with religious angle

·3 min read

A video has been viewed thousands of times in social media posts that claim it shows a "jihadi" mixing toilet cleaner into the flavoured water that fills a popular Indian street snack. The claim is false. The video's creator told AFP that it was scripted and aimed to "make people aware" of the food safety issue.

"A jihadi named Zubair was feeding people by mixing toilet cleaner in the water of the gol gappa. If you buy anything from jihadis, you will risk losing your life," reads the Hindi-language claim posted on Twitter on July 12, 2022.

Jihadi refers to a Muslim who is fighting for Islam, especially a radical who believes in using violence to achieve religious and political aims.

The claim was shared alongside a video that appears to show a man, whose face is covered, mixing toilet cleaner with the flavoured water used to fill gol gappa -- a popular snack sold by street vendors that is also known as pani puri. The people who are secretly filming eventually intervene and rebuke him.

The video has been viewed more than 5,300 times since it was shared.

Screenshot of the misleading tweet, captured on July 18, 2022

The identical video was shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here.

Comments on the posts suggest some users believed the video to be a true incident.

"When you know these people are feeding others by mixing in all kinds of dirt, why do you still eat it? Spitting in bread, washing fruits in the drain... even after watching so many videos, people still do not stop eating from them," read one comment.

Another user said: "These people are shocking. They will get misfortune upon misfortune. They are not going to stop until they get a harsh punishment."

Indian authorities have detected cases where toilet cleaner -- as well as other chemicals -- have been added to the gol gappa water, as reported here and here.

However, the claim is false; the video circulating on social media was scripted.

Staged video

A keyword search and a reverse image search using keyframes from the video on Google led to a longer version of the video on Facebook.

This video was uploaded on July 7, 2022, on the Facebook page Gyan Bhandar.

The page's description reads: "Please keep in mind I make only scripted videos to save people from fraud and to make them aware."

The Hindi-language caption of the video reads: "See how people's health is being put at risk."

It also adds a disclaimer that states: "This video is a complete fiction, all the events in the video are scripted and made for entertainment purpose, it does not promote any kind of activity or defame any kind of ritual. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental."

The video itself does not contain any text to indicate it is scripted or made only for entertainment purposes.

Below is a comparison of screenshots from the viral video shared with the false claim (left) and from the original video uploaded on Facebook (right): 

The Facebook page, which has more than 43,000 followers, also contains several more scripted videos on different topics, such as child trafficking, sex rackets and wedding dowries.

The page links to a YouTube channel, where the video was also uploaded on July 7.

The page's owner,  Rocky Ratnesh, told AFP: "All our videos are scripted and made for entertainment and awareness purposes. This is mentioned in each video and the page's 'about' section cover photo and video also.

"It is not our intention to hurt anyone's sentiments at all. The name of the boy acting in the viral video is Suraj. He belongs to the Hindu community. It was never our intention to spread hatred."

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