Indian media is awash with articles on how Pakistan captain Babar Azam was allegedly “sexting” another player’s girlfriend. The problem: it’s false news that originated in a “joke” tweet from a parody account.
Illustrating how misinformation can morph into accepted reality and explode online, as well as the bitter enmity between India and Pakistan, media failed to notice — or chose to overlook — that the Twitter account was not meant to be taken seriously.
I am sorry @babarazam258, I have deleted that post on the request of an Indian cricketer in DM
— Dr Nimo Yadav (@niiravmodi) January 16, 2023
The person behind the parody account, who remains anonymous, apologised on Twitter to Azam — who has remained silent throughout — and attacked what he called India’s “clown media”.
The original tweet — which has since been deleted — by the “Dr Nimo Yadav” account on January 15 said that Azam had been “sexting with gf (girlfriend) of another Pakistan cricketer”.
Not only that, but the player was “promising her that her bf (boyfriend) won’t be out of team if she keeps sexting with him”, the account tweeted to its more than 27,000 followers.
The tweet carried a purported screenshot of Azam superimposed with a heart, and a video of a topless man in bed resembling the star cricketer. The Twitter account holder said he took the image and video from a since-deactivated Instagram account.
The Twitter handle is marked “Parody account”, but that did not stop the tweet from being viewed almost 850,000 times and being sprayed across media in India and elsewhere.
Even after the holder of the Twitter account highlighted again that the tweet was fake when he deleted it the next day, stories carrying the false claim were still available on at least eight Indian news websites on Wednesday.
One international sports website — which even cited the “verified Twitter account Dr Nimo Yadav” — took down its article after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) tweeted its displeasure at its “media partner” for reporting on the “unsubstantiated personal allegations”.
Internet users expressed solidarity with Azam, with #WeStandWithBabar and #StayStrongBabarAzam trending on Twitter.