In what perhaps constitutes a major embarrassment for the Congress party, it has been reported that London’s TNN (standing for Tri Colour News Network Ltd) World, which had run undercover stories slamming India’s demonetisation and EVMs, has slipped into an unusual business domain- an erotic body-massage service. Senior Congress leader, Kapil Sibal, used the portal’s content on several occasions in order to target Modi government in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. However, the portal went offline on June 3 as per India Today, barely a week after the Lok Sabha results were announced.
As per an India Today report, its open source investigation has revealed that the only director of the platform, Dina Biciin, a Romanian National has changed the business model of the platform from a global news platform to a sensual massage service. The new business of the organisation is named Eva’s Tantric Massage. The service claims “intimate sensual massage promising a prolonged sexual pleasure” across the city of London.
Several press conferences were held by several Congress and other Opposition leaders, and particularly by Kapil Sibal on the basis of the ‘sting operations’ carried out by the TNN World in a bid to ‘expose’ the Modi government. On March 26, Opposition leaders, including former Union ministers Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sharad Yadav, Ahmed Patel of the Congress, Hemant Soren of the JMM and Manoj Jha of the RJD, had held a joint press conference at the Constitution Club located in the National Capital. The joint conference showed what was claimed to be a sting operation. The ‘sting operation’ alleged that a BJP worker in Gujarat transacted demonetised notes for a commission of 40 per cent post the deadline for exchanging the banned notes.
On April 9, Kapil Sibal had run another press conference on the basis of a series of unauthenticated TNN World stories which claimed that the BJP’s top leadership had run a money-exchange operation with the help of officials from 26 different departments, including India’s external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). This was as bizarre as it could get. The authenticity of the reports making such outrageous allegations was called into question, however that did not stop Kapil Sibal from holding another press conference at the party headquarters on April 17 based on the same portal’s claims.
Amusingly, TNN World had described itself as “an independent, UK-based news publisher” at that time before turning into a full-time massage service. India Today’s Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA), had also found a viral video published by TNN World to be misleading and had also questioned the creditability of TNN World. However, the portal had continued to publish more unauthenticated reports in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. It had also published unverified reports on a similar agenda, manipulation of EVMs. The portal’s close proximity with Kapil Sibal and Congress was evident on social media in the run up to elections.
It is pertinent to mention here that in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, experts had voiced concern about possibility of use of internet-driven content and disinformation in order to alter the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls in India, the world’s largest and probably most complex democratic exercise. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal may have, as suspected by many, knowingly intended to spread disinformation about EVMs and demonetisation to gain political benefit for the Congress. Ahead of the polls, the Modi government had vowed to take action against what it had called a Congress conspiracy against the BJP. The then defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, who is now the Finance Minister, had said, “We (Modi government) will take action on them (Congress) legally. We are not going to let this story down.” Speaking about the TNN World, she had said, “This website (TNN World) is registered for one year only. Maybe Congress has planned to close it after elections.” Her prophecy turned out to be right in the bull’s eye as far as the plans to close it were concerned but that it would respawn as an erotic massage service website could not have been anyone’s wildest guess.