RTIwala Interviews Pankaj Jain, Founder of SM Hoax Slayer
Mr Pankaj Jain, the saviour to ingenuous social media users and gullible Whatsapp Believers. These are the days when rumours and hoaxes proliferating much faster than Made in China fidgets. It’s a hard time not only to curb them but also differentiate the non-sensible news from the real one.
Rw: A 39-year-old from Mumbai’s businessman, a mostly rational, logical, open-minded person who doubles up as a cyber detective, we request you to tell RTIwala readers, who is Pankaj Jain?
Pankaj Jain: Like he said in the ‘A Wednesday‘ Movie.
Just pick up any face from the road, the station, anywhere.
I’m just an Indian thinking of people around, how fake news is brainwashing them, changing opinions, forming and making them stick to something. I completed my BE in computers in 1998, worked for a while and then got into the business.
Rw: Where did you come up with the idea of SM Hoax Slayer? What was the motivation behind starting it up?
Pankaj Jain: The life was passing by as usual but suddenly WhatsApp caught my attention, especially the groups of relatives and friends and the fake stuff they believe in and share. I started with telling them, giving them the proofs but realized it’s all over and people need to know. Few ask why I do this. I’d quote a song here by Bonnie Tylor “Loving you is a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”
Rw: Why you’re doing such a great job from behind the curtains as most of us know about the SM Hoax slayer but hardly anyone knows that Mr Pankaj Jain is the man behind it!
Pankaj Jain: Name doesn’t matter, work does. When I began I never thought it would reach to such proportions, thought it would be just another page on Facebook. At times I think of having live video sessions answering to people but have ignored for a while. (Rw: Don’t worry RTIwala Team is planning for Live sessions with our Interviewees.)
Rw: In a world where everything revolves around the Internet, being mislead with deceptive information has become a matter of contention. How does SM Hoax slayer works?
Pankaj Jain: Everyday I receive around 70-80 queries on Facebook Page, Twitter, email etc. Out of this approx 70 % are based in just one event/tweet/post which caught public attention that day, and others are which I have already debunked in last two years. I started SMHoaxSlayer in August 2015 and have debunked around 2000 fake news yet.
Rw: How you deal with Trolls when you slay the hoax planted by reputed and advanced IT Team of those prominent political parties?
Pankaj Jain: Trolls coming to me are usually low IQ, brainwashed people who I chose to ignore, some tag their entire circle along to get me in their idiotic argument. And, abuses doesn’t matter at all, cause it doesn’t affect me but proves their upbringing. Till the time I’m slaying with proofs, these trolls don’t matter.
Rw: Why do you think is it important to stop such spread of messages in the first place? Did any personal incident have ever changed your perspective?
Pankaj Jain: As I said earlier, it all started from my personal WhatsApp groups but later I realized it was getting nastier. The fake news became important to people in the name of politics and religion trying to divide my country, spread hatred using fake videos, photos etc.
And that hurt me, this messed up priorities of people who don’t bother about corruption, better governance but just these fake news to divide the society, country.
Rw: How has the journey been till date and what are the highs and lows of this roller coaster ride? Any FIR or police complaint filed against you for your noble work?
PJ: Journey has been OK. Nobody noticed me till November 2016. Tries to explain the danger of Fake News to many journalists etc but all in vain. People notices from Demonetisation, that GPS chip in 2000 note, many fake photos of 100 rs, 50 rs etc floating around, fake photos of people standing in ATM queue etc. I have received my part of threats at times but nothing serious.
Rw: “Not being an extremist, and not being biased towards any religion, caste, people, political party expands my understanding of things.” You said that in one of your interviews. Does that mean you are a non-believer in religion and faith?
PJ: I’d name my religion to be Indian. That’s enough for me, that is how I can keep my mind open and worry for my country. Don’t want to be tied with a chain I.e. any political party, any religion, any caste etc. And, I’d like to suggest people in given our society’s architecture, at least they shouldn’t blindly follow any political party, any leader, ask questions, find answers.
Rw: How do you feel when many substandard Indian News Channels broadcast slain hoaxes published by you, on your website under different names like Viral Sach or Viral Test? And any message for them?
PJ: Few channels have been broadcasting these programs since a year or so, but again they believe in TRPs. A Hoax which can be slain in just a minute or two in two parts, fake and real, they drag it for 20 minutes or so with animation, music, repeating same dialogues again. Being a passion or my contribution towards the country I serve entire story just within an image right and wrong both so people don’t need to waste time.
Rw: We guess you aren’t earning any sort of money from the http://smhoaxslayer.com/ website? If that’s incorrect, then How much you’ve earned so far. We’re asking it under our Right to Information.
PJ: I’ve been running SMHoaxSlayer mostly from Facebook page for more than a year but this year I’ve brought the server and put up Google AdSense from which I received a little money. Since many have offered, I will be opening up for funding by followers. (In our next part of Interview we’ll disclose how much money Mr Pankaj Jain received from Fans+Followers & Google AdSense, so stay connected).
Rw: How many Hoaxes have you slain so far? What are the future prospects and planning of SM Hoax Slayer? Would you ever like to be hired by any media group?
PJ: I have debunked about 1900 hoaxes so far. I’ve also received few offers for investment sorts but not planning to go for full time. I do this in my spare hours only. If my current setup matches someone, would like to collaborate but not on the full-time basis.
Rw: How does your work routine actually go? Does it not become tiring? There might be days when you feel so done with things. How do you tackle such moments?
PJ: I spend around 2-3 hours in the night after putting up kids to bed. Go through all the queries received in an entire day, check up the truth, sources, prepare an article to be posted next day. Earlier I used this time to watch movies etc and I now yearn for those days 🙂
Rw: Who’s your fav politician and political party and Why? Plus, will you ever consider joining politics? (Our signature question).
PJ: At times many claims and even try to clean but still Politics is dirty. I’d rather stay away, just keep a look. Joining (politics) is not my goal or a dream at all.
Rw: Top three most fav hoaxes have slain by you, which really made you proud of yourself?
PJ: There had been many which even mainstream media picked from my site without due credit but there are few which I would like to list here on RTIwala.
- Fake news that Raja Mouli and Prabhas are donating the first day earning of Bahubali i.e. 121 crores to Martyrs’ family.
- This absolute heaven at Golden Temple is achieved by Photoshop!
- Wrong photo used to defame Government!
Rw: What has been one shocking incident that you came across that changed your perception towards your noble job, something that disturbed you to your core and you wished to Quit slaying SM Hoaxes?
Pankaj Jain: It’s difficult to swim against the flow, trying to stop the flow for the better cause. People currently are prisoned in a cocoon, not letting outer light in. Being biased, prejudiced. At times it makes me think, nothing’s gonna change, why am I wasting my time, especially being prone to threats.
RTIwala: Would you like to share tools and techniques with our readers to investigate and differentiate between real and fake news?
PJ: Sure, but the answer is complicated. It’s quite easy and difficult too.
Tools are easy but,
1. People don’t wanna spend time!
2. Don’t wanna believe in truth against their biases.
3. A huge stock of Common Sense and the open mind is the basic requirement which is rare.
1. Google reverse image search.
2. Form keywords from the queries or message you received. E.g. use a name, date, words from it and google it.
3. You must have to go beyond first page results looking for credible link/proof.
Rw: You are a one-man-army. Isn’t it difficult to do all the tasks by your own self? What’s your family’s reaction to your work?
Pankaj Jain: Alone till now, but there are few who helped me in customizing the website, cartoons, spreading, retweeting etc, to whom I’ll always be obliged. And, the sad part is this work always keeps me on mobile which takes away my time for kids which rightly results in disagreement from mother or wife, a father does understand it’s value though.
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RTIwala: What’s your reaction when so many doing the same job like Check4Spam, AltNews, Boom Live, Factchecker.in, Factly and many others?
Pankaj Jain: I will open up for funding by followers and may collaborate with someone if things come by.
RTIwala: Who’s your role model and what advice you’d like to give to our readers? Any three books you’d like to recommend to our readers?
Pankaj Jain: Role model? Not sure, Bhagat Singh, Snowdon & Assange!
Role model sounds like a comparison, a goal which I know is a horizon can never be reached.
I’d simply like to put some harsh words.
Something too good to be true can mostly be false. People out there are conning you with sensational headlines, click baits, sugar-coated lies. You need to keep your mind open and a stock of Common Sense which is on the verge of Extinction.
Hope GovT subsidise it and include in Ration! 😀
Rw: What you’d like to say about RTIwala?
Pankaj Jain: RTI is one of the best thing ever have happened to Indian Democracy. It shakes bureaucrats, officers, rather entire written system. RTIwala Team has been doing a great job, rope in some good doers, hope you make people aware of easiness of RTI. Many are hesitant to take this noble job. Keep up your awesome work. Make people accountable. Wishing the best to you all.
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