On 21st May 2022, several pictures were found circulating on social media along with a threat letter threatening to abduct the 15 female students and teachers of Riphah University, Islamabad, for their support of the “Aurat March”. The pictures and news of abduction and killing of female students spread across social media platform and caused chaos. People started demanding thorough investigation of the case, the government policies and Islamabad police was targeted for its incompetency.
The same post was also widely shared on Twitter and got users’ attention.
The threat letter reads as:
“We have plans to abduct 12 girls and 5 teachers from Girls Hostel near Riphah University. List will be published soon. Yes! 2 to 13 girls have already been abducted. We have to stop vulgarity in the name of “Aurat March”. It is better to go naked rather than wearing skintight clothes. If someone is seen wearing tights or jeans, she will be beheaded and displayed on Kashmir Chowk and Golra Chowk. Don’t let your children wear tights or bear the consequences. Our network is spread all over Pakistan and we have kept eyes on all girls’ hostels, hence it is requested to all Pakistani’s to be good & honest Muslims, and avoid going out without a veil. And bring an end to the fashion of the West.”
Using AI-Assisted tools, we conducted a reverse image search of the shared pictures and found a post from a social media-based news page “Chach News” with the same pictures. The news page reported an incident of murder near Kalar Kahar Motorway in April 2022 and posted the pictures from the crime scene.
In order to further investigate the claim and enquire about the crime, we checked the official page of “Islamabad Police” and found that Islamabad police had denied the rumor of kidnapping and murder of women, they had also launched an investigation.
We also checked the official page of Riphah University and found a press release which has denied the circulating news.
Our research confirmed that old images with false context were going viral on social media along with a threat letter which had no relation with the actual incident. Mainstream media outlets have not reported the any such incident. False news was shared to trigger fear and despair among the public for following western fashion and for supporting “Aurat March” [Woman March]. The kidnapping and killing of girls were rumored to incite fear among females and restrict their mobility and freedom of choices.
ABCDE Framework-Based Analysis
|Actor||Independent accounts on Twitter and Facebook are involved in spreading misinformation on social media.|
|Behavior||The false news of abduction of 15 female students and teachers of Riphah University in Islamabad is being circulated on social media.|
|Content||Social Media posts.|
|Degree||The content is being spread to misinform people, the target audience of the news was general public, specially female students and working women. The misinformation was mainly spread on Twitter followed by Facebook.|
|Effect||The news is being circulated to mislead the masses and create panic among female students and working women and restrict their mobility. False news is being shared to trigger fear and despair for following western fashion and for speaking in favor of “Aurat March” which is believed to be a western propaganda in Pakistan.|