English, Fake News

These images of prosthetic fingers are from Japan and are not related to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections


In the wake of the 2024 general elections, there is a lot of discussion on social media about bogus, fake votes and rigging. In this context, several posts (here, here, and here) accompanied by a collage of images showing fake or prosthetic fingers lying on a table are being widely shared across social media platforms with the claim that these show how fake fingers are being used for voting fraud during the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal. In this article, let’s fact-check the claim made in the post.

The archived versions of similar posts can be found here and here.

Claim: Prosthetic or artificial fingers being made to cast fake votes in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Fact: The artificial or prosthetic fingers shown in the viral images have no connection with the ongoing 2024 general elections. These viral photos depict the manufacturing of artificial or prosthetic fingers in Japan. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.

To verify the accuracy of the viral claim, we conducted a relevant keyword search on the internet. However, we could not find any news reports about prosthetic or artificial fingers being made to cast fake votes in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections. During this search, we also came across an ‘India Today’ article published in March 2017, which reported that a political party had placed a large purchase for silicone fingers ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections in March 2017.

Furthermore, during our investigation, we discovered that these images had previously gone viral with the same claim during the 2019 General Elections (here & here). Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr. S. Y. Qureshi, also shared these images on his X (Twitter) (archived link) in 2017 with the caption “someone sent this!”

To learn more about these viral images, we conducted a Google reverse image search. This search led us to an article titled “How fake pinkies help Japanese Gangsters,” published on a website named ‘Deceptology’ in 2014, featuring one of the viral images. The article shares details of a doctor named ‘Shintaro Hayashi’ who makes silicone body parts for patients with breast cancer, or legs and arms for those injured in serious accidents.

In this search, we came across a fact-checking article published by AFP in 2019 when these photos went viral with the same claim in 2019. According to this article, the other viral photo was taken from an article published on the personal website of Japanese American journalist Akiko Fujita. This article is based on a 2013 ABC News Media report titled ‘Prosthetic Fingers Help Reform Japan’s Feared Yakuza Gangsters.’ An archived version of the article published on Akiko Fujita’s website on 16 December 2013, can be found here.

The article published on the ‘ABC news’ website in June 2013 states that a stunted pinkie signifies membership in the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. In a ritual known as “yubitsume,” yakuza members are required to chop off their own digits to atone for serious offences. The left pinkie (little finger) is usually the first to go, though repeated offences call for further severing. As a result, those who leave the yakuza have a hard time finding work because of the stigma attached to missing fingers. Dr. Shintaro Hayashi makes silicone prosthetic fingers for former yakuza members. The prosthetic fingers he makes cost about $3,000 each, and they are carefully painted to match the client’s exact skin tone. Former yakuza members make up to 5% of Hayashi’s business. Based on this information, we can confirm that this viral photo shows artificial fingers prepared in Japan and is not associated with the ongoing 2024 Indian general elections.

To sum up, these images of prosthetic fingers are from Japan and have no connection with the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections.


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