Steve Salgra Rema

Fellow, Dismislab

Neeti Chakma

Fellow, Dismislab
Verified YouTube channel profits from fabricated parliamentary confrontations

Verified YouTube channel profits from fabricated parliamentary confrontations

Steve Salgra Rema

Fellow, Dismislab

Neeti Chakma

Fellow, Dismislab

Recent videos circulating on social media purportedly show newly elected Member of Parliament Barrister Syed Sayedul Haque Suman criticizing ministers and state ministers during parliamentary sessions, even though some of those ministers are not currently part of the cabinet. Dismislab verified eight of such videos only to reveal that they were fabricated. Audio from Suman’s past statements was inserted into footage from parliamentary sessions to falsely depict him engaging in debates with ministers, and the ministers’ responses in the videos were also edited and taken from different contexts.

Respect American TV, the YouTube channel that published these videos, has made a business out of this manipulation. While the channel hosts around 200 videos, the recent trend of fabricating parliamentary debate has only been ongoing for two weeks. Eight videos of this nature have each garnered over a million views, potentially generating revenue from advertisements.

Before his election to Parliament, Suman was a social media influencer, popular for his outspoken views on public issues. His critical commentary targeted powerful individuals. According to Dismislab’s analysis, 60% of the channel’s videos feature Suman and his critical statements, leveraging his popularity on social media platforms. 

The channel in question, as claimed in its description, is located in the United States and boasts a gray badge, indicating that it is verified by YouTube itself. It is also using artificial intelligence or AI generated news presenters in several contents to attract viewers. The comments section of the videos suggest that those are successfully misleading the audience as may seem to believe their content. 

The Manipulation

Dismislab verified eight recent videos on this channel depicting Suman in parliament and found them to be distorted and false. For instance, one video titled “Barrister Suman Exposed Education Minister Dipu Moni’s corruption scandal in parliament” (translated from Bangla) portrays Suman engaging in a debate with former Education Minister Dipu Moni. Allegations of corruption are raised by Suman, with Moni seen responding to deny these claims. However, the entire debate is fabricated. Firstly, Dipu Moni served as Education Minister in the previous tenure of the government, during which Suman was not a member of the Parliament. Furthermore, while in the current tenure Suman holds an MP seat, Dipu Moni is no longer the Education Minister.

At least three videos were stitched together to create a fake report. The channel pieced together video footage from different parliament sessions and paired it with audio from Suman’s older videos, where his words were originally spoken in a different context. In this video, Suman can be heard addressing the Education Minister in parliament, stating, “Hon’ble Education Minister, you understand if your place is so shaky; You and these relatives of yours were cleverly trying to take away 359 crores from the people of Bangladesh.” These words were originally uttered by Suman on January 27, 2022, in a video posted on his verified Facebook page with the caption, “Honorable Minister of Education, educate your relatives and not us!“.

The audio of Dipu Moni, shown after Suman’s speech, was sourced from two separate videos. The opening segment was found on YouTube in a live video by Jamuna TV, titled “My family has nothing to do with corruption: Deepu Moni”, dated January 27, 2022. The last part of her audio was taken from a previous parliament session footage in response to a question posed by former opposition MP Rumin Farhana, again more than three years ago.

In another video titled “Barrister Suman has now grilled the Railway Minister in Parliament,” published on April 25, the MP can be heard questioning, “Since 2015, you have spent Tk 196 crore to make rail-crossings safe. So I want to know first of all why the honorable railway minister will avoid this responsibility. I mean, he took so many crores of Taka, God knows what he did with this money.” The original audio of this video is sourced from a clip published on July 30, 2022, on the MP’s verified Facebook page. In the original context, he was discussing a railway crossing accident in Chattogram district that occurred the day prior. Therefore, this video, with two million views, is not recent either.

Additionally, on April 26 and 27 respectively, two fake videos (1, 2) titled “Barrister Suman now grills the Minister of State for Power in Parliament” and “Barrister Suman now grills the Foreign Minister in Parliament” were published on the same channel. However, the original audio of these videos (1, 2) is sourced from Barrister Suman’s Facebook page and is old, set in different contexts.

Tactic that earns million views, and money

The YouTube channel’s most viewed video to date is titled “Barrister Suman grills Obaidul Quader in the parliament (translated from Bangla).” Released a week ago, the video has garnered over 3 million views as of the writing of this report. In the video, the newly elected MP can be heard saying, “Some crows (implying disloyalty to the party) are riding the Boat (the election symbol of the ruling Awami League). So, the Eagle symbol (the election symbol of independent candidates) is there to send off those crows! But who are these crows? They are the ones who mention Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League only by mouth and not in deeds.” At one point, Obaidul Quader, a senior minister and general secretary of the Awami League, is seen responding, “Honorable Member of Parliament, who speaks excessively, does not even pronounce Sheikh Hasina’s name with decency.”

Dismislab verified this video and found that the clip of Obaidul Quader is from a parliament session about a year ago, during which Suman was not a MP. And, Quader’s words were not directed towards Suman but to opposition party leaders. Despite participating in the national election wearing the eagle symbol, Barrister Suman’s use of the word ‘crow’ during his campaign does not correlate with any video evidence of him addressing Obaidul Quader as such in current parliamentary proceedings.

The number of views explains why the channel is posting manipulated content, claiming that the MP is grilling different ministers. Each of the eight videos garnered more than a million views for the channel, while most of its other videos received views in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Among the ten most popular videos of the channel, eight feature Suman.

Dismislab used two tools (Ytlarge and Is This Channel Monetized) to check if the YouTube channel is making money. They found ads in the eight verified videos, indicating that these videos earned the channel, or at least YouTube, profits.

Use of AI

Respect American TV has employed artificial intelligence technology to enhance its content, as evidenced by the addition of presenters and Bengali voices. In the most recent eight videos uploaded by the channel, a female presenter is featured in the final minute of each video, expressing support for the fabricated content. 

At least five different female characters are found speaking across these videos. None of these characters appear to be Bangladeshi, yet they are speaking in the Bengali language. Their voices sound mechanized, resembling machine-generated speech.

Upon observation, it becomes apparent that the lip movements of these presenters do not synchronize with the corresponding speech of the female voice. Furthermore, the repetitive nature of the presenter’s hand movements and eye blinks suggests that these characters are not authentic but rather AI generated.

The rise of Respect American TV

According to analysis by the social media watchdog Social Blade, Respect American TV, the YouTube Channel, was launched on September 24, 2019. It has since garnered over 270 thousand subscribers and a gray tick of verification with more than 200 videos released thus far. However, the oldest video found dates back only seven months ago.

Despite claiming to be based in the US and offering information in over 20 languages, the channel does not feature any videos about the US. Instead, all videos are published in Bangla, with over 120 of them focusing on MP Suman. 

Since its inception, the channel has relied on political criticism as its niche, often reposting and repackaging videos of different actors and events. However, in the early stages, it used to post clips from original videos, and manipulative behavior has been observed to intensify since its subscriber count began to grow, particularly since January 2024. It was around this time that they started producing videos featuring Suman. 

According to Social Blade, the channel’s subscriber count has surged by over 100,000 in the last 30 days alone, marking a growth rate of 368%.

An warning from the MP and response

On April 28th, Barrister Suman posted a video on his verified Facebook page addressing concerns about the manipulated content featuring him. In one post titled “Beware of edited videos with various important people in my name,” he warned viewers about manipulated clips falsely attributing statements to him. 

Suman emphasized that many videos circulating online are fabricated and urged viewers to verify their authenticity. He expressed concern about being misrepresented and cautioned against defamatory actions carried out in his name. “Those who are spreading these distorted videos will be brought under the law if necessary,” he said in the video.

Although Suman did not specify any name in his video remarks, Respect American TV, the Youtube channel, itself announced its temporary suspension on April 29, shortly after Suman’s warning. No further videos have been released by the channel since then.