Misinformation regarding COVID-19 has peaked since the Tablighi Jamaat markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin emerged as one of the hotspots of the outbreak. On April 7, 2020, news agency ANI tweeted quoting the DCP of Gautam Budh Nagar that those in Sector 5, Harola, Noida who came in contact with Tablighi Jamaat members have been quarantined.
ANI’s news was amplified by Smita Prakash, Editor of ANI and Amish Devgan, Managing Editor of News18 Hindi.
DCP Noida terms the report “fake news”
ANI’s news regarding the link with Tablighi Jamaat was however refuted by DCP Noida’s official twitter handle saying that people who had come in contact with the positive case were quarantined as per the laid procedure. “There was no mention of Tabligh Jamat. You are misquoting and spreading fake news,” wrote the DCP. ANI subsequently deleted the tweet without any explanation.
Even though DCP’s office reacted immediately to the misinformation and ANI’s tweet was deleted, it found a mention in Times of India’s Delhi lockdown news update.
Hashtag #ThooSmitaPrakashThoo begins trending
After news agency ANI was called out by the Noida police for a misquote, a Twitter hashtag #ThooSmitaPrakashThoo began trending on the social media platform. According to the Print, the ‘thoo-thoo’ in the hashtag is a reference to ANI’s Editor-in-Chief Smita Prakash, who has posted several tweets with the phrase in the past.
Digital media professional Tarique Anwar tweeted about it, saying ‘thoo Smita Prakash’, resulting in the hashtag.
As the hashtag gained traction, several users pointed out how Prakash had often used the word in her tweets.