India with its massive disinformation campaign against Pakistan, as recently revealed by EU Disinfo Lab, appears to be following what a US think tank RAND calls "Firehose of Falsehood" propaganda model. It has over 750 fake media outlets covering 119 countries. There are over 750 domain names, some in the name of dead people and others using stolen identities. Pakistani policymakers charged with countering the Indian propaganda should read the RAND report "Firehose of Falsehoods" for its 5 specific recommendations to the US government to effectively respond to the Russian disinformation campaign. In particular they should heed its key advice: "All other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive.......Don't expect to counter Russia's firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth. Instead, put raincoats on those at whom the firehose is aimed"
Scale and Duration of India's Campaign:
EU Disinfo Lab, an NGO that specializes in disinformation campaigns, has found that India is carrying out a massive 15-year-long disinformation campaign to hurt Pakistan. The key objective of the Indian campaign as reported in "Indian Chronicles" is as follows: "The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination via ANI and obscure local media networks – at least in 97 countries – to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India, in particular Pakistan". After the disclosure of India's anti-Pakistan propaganda campaign, Washington-based US analyst Michael Kugelman tweeted: "The scale and duration of the EU/UN-centered Indian disinformation campaign exposed by @DisinfoEU is staggering. Imagine how the world would be reacting if this were, say, a Russian or Chinese operation".
|American Analyst Michael Kugelman's Tweet on Indian Disinformation Campaign|
Firehose of Falsehood:
What Kugelman calls "Russian Operation" appears to be a reference to a US government-funded think tank RAND Corporation's report entitled "The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model". Here is an excerpt of the RAND report:
"Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels. This propaganda includes text, video, audio, and still imagery propagated via the Internet, social media, satellite television, and traditional radio and television broadcasting. The producers and disseminators include a substantial force of paid Internet “trolls” who also often attack or undermine views or information that runs counter to Russian themes, doing so through online chat rooms, discussion forums, and comments sections on news and other websites".
|EU Disinformation Lab Report on India's Disinformation Campaign Against Pakistan|
Indian Political Unity Against Pakistan:
Former US President Barack Obama has observed that “Expressing hostility toward Pakistan was still the quickest route to national unity (in India)”. The Indian disinformation campaign is a manifestation of Indians' political unity against Pakistan. EU Disinfo Lab has found that Indian Chronicles is a 15-year-long campaign that started in 2005 on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's watch, well before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election to India's highest office in 2014. It has grown to over 750 fake media outlets covering 119 countries. There are over 750 domain names, some in the name of dead people and others using stolen identities. Here is an excerpt of EU Disinfo Lab's report:"The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination via ANI and obscure local media networks – at least in 97 countries – to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India, in particular Pakistan".
South Asia Investor Review
PTM: Lowdown on Manzoor Pashteen
East Pakistan "Genocide" Headline
Ex Indian Spy On RAW's Successes Against Pakistan
Free Speech: Myth or Reality?
Social Media Tribalism
Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?
Planted Stories in Media
Indian BJP Troll Farm
Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan
The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway
Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel
Absolutely True Facts about India’s Disformation Campaign against Pakistan -
Now let’s discuss who believes that Communist China , Russia , N Korea , Iran , Cuba......
And a few other Communist & Socialist Countries DONT HAVE WORSE CAMPAIGNS
AGAINST THEIR PRIME ENEMIES ???
But how come we don’t see enough of details about these countries Disinformation Campaigns in the USA Newspapers & TV Channels ?
Terry: "But how come we don’t see enough of details about these countries Disinformation Campaigns in the USA Newspapers & TV Channels ?"
US government, media and politicians have spent much of the last 4 years in investigating various disinformation campaigns directed against Western Europe and the United States.
There was a long Mulller probe.
Several indictments, prosecutions and some convictions.
Sanctions have been imposed on China and Russia.
And big social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have implemented new rules to block what they consider disinformation.
All of these have been widely covered by western media.
#ANI linked to #India’s anti-#Pakistan #disinformation campaign is reporting that #Pakistani intelligence agency #ISI influenced #US #Elections2020. #fakenews | Business Standard News
The United States and the Nevada government have been put on alert by an Anti-Voter Fraud group after a suspicious link was found between the state government website and a Lahore-based company allegedly linked to the Pakistani intelligence services.
According to an article by Kristina Wong titled 'Anti-Voter Fraud Group Finds Suspicious Link Between Nevada State Website and Intelligence-Linked Pakistani Company' published in Breitbart News on December 5, "The organization, True the Vote, alerted state and federal authorities after it requested a Nevada voter registration list through the Nevada secretary of state's website, and received an email back with a downloadable voter file. That email arrived with an employee of Pakistani company Kavtech carbon copied."
Catherine Engelbrecht, 'True the Vote' President, informed John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security in a letter, obtained exclusively by Breitbart News, that upon receiving the email, "I was shocked to see the inclusion of another email address in the CC line."
"The address was email@example.com. Waqas Butt is the CEO of Kavtech Solutions Ltd.. Kavtech is a Pakistani owned company, located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, with ties to Pakistani intelligence, military, and the interior," she said in the letter.
Meanwhile, the election researchers familiar with the incident has opined that the inclusion of another email address in the CC line could either be an "an accident by a contractor who worked on the Nevada secretary of state's website" or even an indication of the involvement of an unauthorised company allegedly linked to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) into the backend of the Nevada government's website system.
"Such an intrusion could be problematic if downloading the voter registration list also worked as a phishing attack, where hackers could gain entry into the servers of those requesting the lists, or if hackers had access to state government email communications," Kristina said.
"The fact that this company was cc'ed on an email containing access to the Nevada voter registration database appears to be evidence of a breach within the Nevada Secretary of State's email system," Engelbrecht told Demers.
"Obviously, the problems that such a breach may evidence include access to at least the voter registration information of Nevada residents. At worst it could reveal a breach that gives a foreign power access to not only the State of Nevada's systems, but also to the email systems of anyone whom the State communicates with via email," she added.
Post the incident, Engelbrecht said in an interview with Breitbart News, "Why would they [Pakistani company] be getting this information? Why would they show up on a cc line? There's no good way to look at that should make anyone feel confident in the security of this process."
"Further, all we can speak to is our experience. Who knows where else that is showing up and what else they're tracking? If it's embedded in a form like that, they could be doing that for any number of things," she further said.
"The implication here that a foreign national company with known ties to the intelligence community in Pakistan -- there's no way to overlook that. It's inexplicable and it should be investigated," she added.
Should Secular Democracies Get Away With Acts Of Subversion And Fabrication? – OpEd
Hamza Rifaat Hussain
Open source investigations can be a tedious and cumbersome task and ‘Indian Chronicles’ a report published by the EU’s DisinfoLab which details the fifteen year operation conducted by the Srivastava Group and Asian News International (ANI) is no exception. Since 2005, the operation continued unabated with astonishing tactics of subversion at the international level involving identity thefts, fake media outlets and domain names. This included Former President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz as well as photo of James Purnell, a former UK Minister who became subjects of egregious fabrication with close to 750 fake media outlets covering 119 countries or 61% of the global population as well as over 550 domain names being registered. The sole objective was to promote India’s narrative at the expense of transparency and authenticity to claim that this is ordinary is to claim that Albert Einstein was solely a scientist. It reveals a criminally bare story.
What the evidence does demonstrate is that New Delhi, through the Srivastava Group employed underhand tactics such as activating side events and demonstrations in support of minority rights in various countries as well as impersonating distinguished UN accredited NGOs with the aim of promoting ‘India- centric’ narratives and muzzling out divergent voices at the international level. Solid evidence has implicated organizations created by the Srivastava Group, which successfully organized trips to Brussels in Belgium for members of the European parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh and even the Maldives. The delegates purportedly attending these conferences were not EU officials per say, given that they lacked sanctioning from the European Parliament but impersonations and fake profiles as per the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP), a US based NGO had become inactive in the late 1970s yet in 2005, its identity had been hijacked by actors from the Srivastava Family given that the deceased Professor Louis B Sohn, had actually passed away in 2006 and apparently attended both a UN Human Rights Council Meeting in 2007 and participated in the ‘Friends of Gilgit Baltistan’ event in Washington D.C. in 2011.
Furthermore, informal groups such as the ‘South Asia Peace Forum’ and ‘The Baloch Forum’ were also considered integral components of the European Parliament with press conferences and events taking place worldwide These shocking revelations cannot be simply contested as attempts by India’s adversaries, Pakistan or China to deflect blame, but are realistic attempts which threaten the very foundations of diplomatic initiatives in Western democracies as well as states which are grappling with issues such as terrorism on their shores.
Should Secular Democracies Get Away With Acts Of Subversion And Fabrication? – OpEd
Hamza Rifaat Hussain
Despite this moral bankruptcy, the Srivastava Group continued its operations unabashedly and unabatedly given that they fell below the global radar. The recent launch of the ‘EU Chronicle’ which is a fake EU outlet spread disinformation and reached out to world capitals to promote fabricated narratives and muzzle out dissenting voices, particularly from India’s staunchest adversaries such as Pakistan and China. Recently, India’s nuclear armed rival, shared a dossier on India’s terror campaign with the United Nations Secretary General which mentions New Delhi’s sponsorship of groups such as the Tehrik I Taliban and Jamaat Ul Ahrar which are terrorist organizations of which the former was responsible for the heinous 2014Army Public School attack in Peshawar six years ago. The setting up of a dedicated cell to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, an economic lifeline for cash strapped Pakistan with investments worth Rs 500 million as well as subversive tactics in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan underlines how Beijing’s influence was also viewed as a threat and had to be targeted through disinformation campaigns and systematic investments. All this was emanating from a secular democracy and not rogue dictatorships such as Iran or Russia with a history of attempts to hijack, dissuade, project and subvert international norms for promoting Moscow or Tehran’s global ambitions.
There is a catch for states which have not been provided with international platforms to voice their concerns. India’s rival and the most brutalized victim, Pakistan has long been considered to be partly complicit in regional terrorism and for its failure to crack down on militants on its soil. Islamabad has also been significantly berated at the United Nations with less than convincing counter narratives to truly depict the country as a victim instead of a sponsor of terrorism. The report by DisinfoLab however, has vindicated such positions, given that disinformation campaigns launched by New Delhi has not implicated fledgling dictatorships but Western democratic, diplomatic representatives which have been championing the cause of transparency and curbing cybercrime across the globe.
Numerous analysts, scholars, academics and practitioners and even the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan had pointed to the campaigns initiated by Indian lobbies in the United States, Europe and Asia and their ability to garner widespread support for its narrative as a key factor in promoting wider Indian designs. The multiplication of repetitive negative content online has resulted in global audiences to consume the fact that they were not being diplomatically represented in august forums given that the profiles of their representatives were fabricated and personal information was tapped into which is nothing short of state sponsored clandestine, propaganda warfare.
The evidence is undoubtedly damning, revealing and shocking and requires international attention given that transparency, the right to privacy, curbing cybercrime, stymying defamation campaigns and acts of subversion, have long been advocated for as globally inviolable norms. What the international community’s response to the EU DisinfoLab’s revelations will hence be the real challenge given that this emanated from a secular democracy not a rogue dictatorship.
Has a ‘fifth generation war’ started between India and Pakistan?
What do recent revelations about an Indian disinformation campaign against Pakistan tell us about regional dynamics?
Ahsan I Butt
The symbiosis between the Indian government and its media is not new. Just eighteen months ago, India and Pakistan found themselves in the midst of a dangerous crisis that risked nuclear war. In those nervy and tense times, the Indian media, according to a Polis Project study, “largely ascribed to itself the role of an amplifier of government propaganda”, regurgitating baseless claims and pouring jingoistic fuel on to a raging nationalistic fire.
Simlarly, the EU DisinfoLab report has proffered evidence that India’s “private” mainstream media is in many ways an arm of the Indian state. In so doing, it has strengthened Pakistan’s position regarding the degradation of India’s national political institutions. India’s reputation as a democracy, so crucial to its soft power, has already taken a battering under Modi. This report does not help.
Of course, the West maintains good relations with India not because of its democratic status, but rather because of its potential to balance China and fuel economic growth. It would be unreasonable to expect this report to fundamentally alter this trajectory.
For instance, the Soviet Union and the United States sponsored propaganda and misinformation against each other during the Cold War. The US eagerly expanded the scope of its propaganda and psychological operations under President Dwight Eisenhower and went on to build an impressive infrastructure of institutions, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, that were devoted to the task.
For its part, the USSR enjoyed focusing on racism in the US. Propaganda posters would often juxtapose symbols of American democracy, such as the Statue of Liberty, with emblems of slavery, racism, and domestic terrorism, such as the Ku Klux Klan or the police.
The point here is not merely to dispute the nomenclature of “fifth-generation war”. Rather, by considering disinformation and perception management as tools of war rather than “normal” politics and diplomacy, states risk exaggerating the severity of the threats they face. Though all war is politics, as Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed, not all politics is war.
India-Pakistan Engage In 5th Gen Warfare As Propaganda War Erupts Over Kashmir, Balochistan
An article by Ahsan I Butt, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, in Al Jazeera, states Pakistan is being ignorant in not accepting the security threats while gleefully hailing the report.
Butt says “there is little doubt that such a vast enterprise could and would exist only with the government’s knowledge”. He underlines the emerging argument of Pakistan facing a “new type of holistic war” but at the same time, speculates if this could lead to a fifth-generation war between the two neighbors.
India’s ministry of external affairs has already refuted the allegations made by the EU report. In response to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s charge of India peddling fake news, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for MEA, said: “As a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns”.
“In fact, you are looking at disinformation, the best example is the country next door which is circulating fictional and fabricated dossiers and purveys a regular stream of fake news,” he said.
Pakistan Releases Dossier
While India has shrugged off such claims, Pakistan itself has been leading the “war of narratives” from its side. In November 2020, Pakistan made public a dossier containing “proofs” of the “India-sponsored” terrorism in Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, accompanied by military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, backed the allegation of India aiding and abetting terrorism for destabilizing the region with specific evidence of financing, training, harboring, and weapons supply in the shape of copies of correspondence, bank transactions, and communication intercepts.
Hassan Aslam Shad, a practicing international lawyer, writing in an article for The Diplomat also speculates these developments between India and Pakistan mark “a new war of narratives” between the two nuclear powers.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, ever since he has come to power in 2018, has played an important role in leading a campaign against India on the Kashmir issue on international platforms.
Exposing #India's #fakenews war against #Pakistan: EU DisinfoLab Executive Director Alexandre Alaphilippe stated that it was the ‘largest network’ of disinformation they have exposed. #IndianChronicles #disinformation https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/01/09/exposing-the-fake-news-war-against-pakistan/
For nearly 15 years, a network comprising over a thousand mostly Indian news outlets and domains operating across the world systematically influenced international opinion against Pakistan. Unquestioned by key officials in the United States and Europe, these sources of motivated information and disinformation constituted an essential part of a pro-India group’s campaign against Pakistan.
Without really figuring out the ‘movers and shakers’ behind the negative publicity against it, Pakistan has struggled to manage Shia–Sunni rivalries, terror outfits and disgruntled ethnic Pashtun and Baloch movements. Islamabad failed to focus on how Indian networks — ANI, Zee News and New Delhi Times, as well as hundreds of their partners abroad — were exploiting these internal fault-lines.
These three news organisations specifically focused on Balochistan, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and religious minorities when reporting on Pakistan, serving as primary sources of information for their partners in Europe and the United States.
‘Not stopping this sort of malicious activity says a lot about the Indian government’, says the ANU’s Claude Rakisits. New Delhi may not have been behind the campaign, but they certainly turned a blind eye to it.
The Indian Chronicles report may now represent an opportunity for Pakistan — whose image is reeling from the consequences of the long-term campaign from India mounted against it — to set things right through astute diplomacy.
This affair reveals a deliberate and targeted disinformation campaign from within the world’s largest democracy. British jurist Nazir Gilani argues it is more than a fit case for Pakistan to raise in the European Union and on the floor of the United Nations. India’s self-interest trumped when it acquiesced in — even if not directly supported — a massive disinformation campaign on its neighbour.
2020 Global Inventory of Organized
Social Media Manipulation
Samantha Bradshaw . University of Oxford
Hannah Bailey . University of Oxford
Philip N. Howard . University of Oxford
Excerpts of Oxford Disinformation Report 2020:
By looking comparatively across the behaviours, expenditures, tools, and resources cyber troop employ, we can begin to build a larger comparative picture of the global organization of social media manipulation. National contexts are always important to consider. However, we suggest it is also worth generalizing about the experience of organized disinformation campaigns across regime types to develop a broad and comparative understanding of this phenomenon. We have begun to develop a simplistic measure to comparatively assess the capacity of cyber troop teams in relation to one another, taking into consideration the number of government actors involved, the sophistication of tools, the number of campaigns, the size and permanency of teams, and budgets or expenditures made. We describe cyber troop capacity on a three-point scale (High, Medium, Low):
High cyber troop capacity involves large numbers of staff, and large budgetary expenditure on psychological operations or information warfare. There might also be significant funds spent on research and development, as well as evidence of a multitude of techniques being used. These teams do not only operate during elections but involve full-time staff dedicated to shaping the information space. High-capacity cyber troop teams focus on foreign and domestic operations. They might also dedicate funds to state-sponsored media for overt propaganda campaigns. High-capacity teams include: Australia, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
One example of this phenomenon is the human networks of cyber troops in Pakistan, who both artificially boost political campaigns, but also mass report tweets that oppose their agenda as spam, causing the Twitter algorithm to block that issue’s access to the trending panel (Poplzaj & Jahangir, 2019). Recently, however, Twitter has maintained a 0% compliance rate with government requests to take down content that would fall under cyber troop activities (Twitter Transparency Report, 2019). Twitter is not the only platform involved. Facebook and Google have also been a focus of cyber troops in Pakistan: on Facebook, Pakistan successfully restricted more than 5,700 posts between January and June 2019 (Facebook Transparency Report, 2019) and on Google more than 3,299 posts were requested to be removed between January and June 2019 (Google Transparency Report, 2019). Facebook, Twitter and Google have expressed their concern at these restrictive activities and have also recently threatened to remove their services from Pakistan in response to legislative attempts to censor digital content, but they have yet to act on this threat (Singh, 2020)
#Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami on #PulwamaAttack: "This attack we have won like crazy." Goswami is known be close to #Modi government, often considered #BJP's mouthpiece. He know #Pulwama was about to happen. #TRPScam #WhatsAppLeaks #Kashmir #Balakot https://thelogicalindian.com/trending/goswami-balakot-air-strikes-26172
The WhatsApp chats also reveal that Goswami allegedly had prior information about some sensitive events including the Balakot airstrikes, three days before it happened.
In a massive development in the ongoing TRP scam case, a 500-page document of alleged chats of Republic TV's Arnab Goswami was allegedly leaked on social media. The alleged chats reveal damning information related to Goswami's proximity with the Prime Minister's office and members of the ruling government, his efforts to manipulate TRPs in his favour and seek help from the BJP government and much more. The chats allegedly show Goswami and Dasgupta discussing politicians, journalists, news networks, and the TRP system. In one of the alleged chats of February 14, 2019, Goswami says "This attack we have won like crazy." The message was sent on the same day when 40 CRPF personnel had lost their lives after a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber at Lethpora in the Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir.
The alleged chats also reveal that Goswami had prior information about some sensitive events and details including the Balakot airstrikes, three days before it happened
In the alleged chats, there are several pages of Goswami conversing with former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta. Several portions of the alleged chat have been leaked on social media. The alleged chats primarily show how Goswami asked for help to push the TRPs of the channel ahead of other news channels. The alleged chats also reveal that Goswami and Dasgupta met regularly, joked about politicians, discussed crucial political developments, and gossiped about journalists such as Rajdeep Sardesai ("he is losing his job"), Sagarika Ghose ("she is rotting in Times"), Aroon Purie ("part of a Cong propaganda machine"), Ashok Malik ("such a hypocrite"), Rajat Sharma (an "utter fool" with a "substandard channel"), Rahul Shivshankar ("an ass"), and business journalists ("all bloody bootlickers"). Some alleged chats from 2019 shows Goswami and Dasgupta discussing Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut and how she helps in generating TRPs. "Kangana is a massive rating earner", Goswami says. Goswami's alleged WhatsApp chat was leaked on social media on the same day when the Bombay High Court adjourned the hearing in the TRP Scam case till 29 January. The Mumbai Police also said that they will not arrest Goswami until the next hearing.
Cyberspace Plus Trump Almost Killed Our Democracy. Can Europe Save Us?
by Tom Friedman
Cyberspace is starting to resemble a sovereign nation-state, but without borders or governance. It has its own encrypted communications systems, like Telegram, outside the earshot of terrestrial governments. It has its own global news gathering and sharing platforms, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It even has its own currencies — Bitcoin and others — that no sovereign state has minted.
In recent years, all these platforms have mushroomed. They can elevate important voices that were never heard before. But they can also enable a believer in Jewish-run space laser
Donald Trump has been impeached for trying to kill the results of our last election, but we should have no illusions that whatever happens at his trial, the weapon he used is still freely available for others to deploy. It’s a realm called “cyberspace” — where we’re all connected but no one is in charge.
Trump, like no leader before, took advantage of that realm to spread a Big Lie, undermine trust in our electoral system and inspire an attack on our Capitol. We need a democratic fix for cyberspace fast.
China has figured out how to project its autocratic system and Communist values into cyberspace, to enhance its growth and stability, better than we’ve figured out how to project our democratic values into cyberspace to enhance our growth and stability. And we invented the damn thing!
If we don’t figure this out fast, we’re going to fall behind China economically, because the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digitization of everything, making cyberspace bigger and more important than ever.
Pakistan plans to set up international media channel funded by China to build narrative: Report (India Today) The leaked documents that Indian agencies have laid their hands on from Pakistan's security establishment show that Pakistan wants to collaborate with China to carry out an information war campaign globally, with Beijing providing finances and guidance.
The leaked documents that Indian agencies have laid their hands on from Pakistan's security establishment show that Pakistan wants to collaborate with China to carry out an information war campaign globally, with Beijing providing finances and guidance.
The concept paper, reviewed by India Today, is titled ‘Building capacity to contest inimical narratives through counter on alternative narratives.’
The paper says the projects looks at truth and factual aspects with a view to quashing misperception.
Internal dynamics in Pakistan are favourable for open media but financial challenges are a hurdle, the paper says while justifying the need to team up with China.
“There is a need for a media house of the stature of Al Jazeera and RT to propel amenable narrative. A media house by Pakistan and funded by China will achieve the stipulated objectives,” the document states.
#Disinformation Industry is Booming. Abhay Aggarwal, head of #Toronto-based CEO of #disinfo company "Press Monitor", says that his company’s services are used by the #Indian government. Disinfo campaigns have recently been found promoting #BJP #Modi https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/25/world/europe/disinformation-social-media.html
Private firms, straddling traditional marketing and the shadow world of geopolitical influence operations, are selling services once conducted principally by intelligence agencies.
They sow discord, meddle in elections, seed false narratives and push viral conspiracies, mostly on social media. And they offer clients something precious: deniability.
“Disinfo-for-hire actors being employed by government or government-adjacent actors is growing and serious,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, calling it “a boom industry.”
Similar campaigns have been recently found promoting India’s ruling party, Egyptian foreign policy aims and political figures in Bolivia and Venezuela.
Mr. Brookie’s organization tracked one operating amid a mayoral race in Serra, a small city in Brazil. An ideologically promiscuous Ukrainian firm boosted several competing political parties.
In India, dozens of government-run Twitter accounts have shared posts from India Vs Disinformation, a website and set of social media feeds that purport to fact-check news stories on India.
India Vs Disinformation is, in reality, the product of a Canadian communications firm called Press Monitor.
Nearly all the posts seek to discredit or muddy reports unfavorable to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, including on the country’s severe Covid-19 toll. An associated site promotes pro-Modi narratives under the guise of news articles.
A Digital Forensic Research Lab report investigating the network called it “an important case study” in the rise of “disinformation campaigns in democracies.”
A representative of Press Monitor, who would identify himself only as Abhay, called the report completely false.
He specified only that it incorrectly identified his firm as Canada-based. Asked why the company lists a Toronto address, a Canadian tax registration and identifies as “part of Toronto’s thriving tech ecosystem,” or why he had been reached on a Toronto phone number, he said that he had business in many countries. He did not respond to an email asking for clarification.
A LinkedIn profile for Abhay Aggarwal identifies him as the Toronto-based chief executive of Press Monitor and says that the company’s services are used by the Indian government.
A set of pro-Beijing operations hint at the field’s capacity for rapid evolution.
Since 2019, Graphika, a digital research firm, has tracked a network it nicknamed “Spamouflage” for its early reliance on spamming social platforms with content echoing Beijing’s line on geopolitical issues. Most posts received little or no engagement.
In recent months, however, the network has developed hundreds of accounts with elaborate personas. Each has its own profile and posting history that can seem authentic. They appeared to come from many different countries and walks of life.
Graphika traced the accounts back to a Bangladeshi content farm that created them in bulk and probably sold them to a third party.
The network pushes strident criticism of Hong Kong democracy activists and American foreign policy. By coordinating without seeming to, it created an appearance of organic shifts in public opinion — and often won attention.
The accounts were amplified by a major media network in Panama, prominent politicians in Pakistan and Chile, Chinese-language YouTube pages, the left-wing British commentator George Galloway and a number of Chinese diplomatic accounts.
A separate pro-Beijing network, uncovered by a Taiwanese investigative outlet called The Reporter, operated hundreds of Chinese-language websites and social media accounts.
Real or Fake, We Can Make Any Message Go Viral: Amit Shah to BJP Social Media Volunteers
"We can keep making messages go viral, whether they are real or fake, sweet or sour," the BJP president boasted.
“In the elections that took place in Uttar Pradesh a year ago, BJP’s social media workers made two big WhatsApp groups. One had 15 lakhmembers, the other 17 lakh. This means a total of 31 lakh. And every day at 8 am they would send ‘Know the Truth’. In which the truth about all the false stories printed in the newspapers about the BJP was given via WhatsApp, and it would go viral. And whichever paper had carried these stories, ordinary people, and social media, would get after them, that why have you printed lies, you should print the truth. And by doing this, slowly, the media became neutral.
“But we had a volunteer who was smart. As I said, messages go from bottom to top and and top to bottom. He put a message in the group – that Akhilesh Yadav had slapped Mulayam Singh. No such thing had happened. Mulayam and Akhilesh were 600 km apart. But he put this message. And the social media team spread it. It spread everywhere. By 10 that day my phone started ringing, bhaisahab, did you know Akhilesh slapped Mulayam…. So the message went viral. One should not do such things. But in a way he created a certain mahaul (perception). This is something worth doing but don’t do it! (Crowd laughs) Do you understand what I am saying?This is something worth doing but don’t do it! We can do good things too. We are capable of delivering any message we want to the public, whether sweet or sour, true of fake. We can do this work only because we have 32 lakh people in our WhatsApp groups. That is how we were able to make this viral.”
#Pakistan #Army Chief Gen Bajwa: “Our enemies are...using non-traditional means including propaganda and disinformation to achieve their nefarious objectives". We must deal “strictly with some internal elements spreading chaos.” #DefenceDay2021 #Disinfo https://www.newsweekpakistan.com/no-room-for-any-kind-of-extremism-in-pakistan-gen-bajwa/
“No individual or group will be allowed to blackmail the state on the basis of area, ethnicity, ideology or religion,” he said during an event commemorating Defense Day at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, adding that no individual or group aside from the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies would be allowed to display weapons or use them.
Urging the nation to unite to make Pakistan a “progressive, peaceful and a modern Islamic and welfare state,” he said the country’s strength and longevity lay with a democratic setup. “To make it more stable, we will have to follow the principles of following the Constitution, justice, tolerance and equality,” he said, adding that “negative attitudes like criticism for the sake of criticism, hatred and intolerance” should be discouraged.
“If Pakistan has to progress, we will have to bury our ego and self-interest … According to [former] U.S. president John F. Kennedy, ‘Do not ask what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country’,” he said. In light of the requirements of the 21st century, Gen. Bajwa said the state should strive for people’s progress and happiness, regional cooperation and acquiring modern technology instead of the negative traditional geopolitical thought against each other.” He said education, health, infrastructure development, population control and climate change should be national priorities.
The Pakistan Army chief also reiterated his concerns with the changing nature of warfare, stressing that modern technology and ways of communication had replaced large-scale conflict to weaken a nation’s unity and ideological boundaries, spread chaos in different sectors, and demoralize people. “Our enemies are also using non-traditional means including propaganda and disinformation to achieve their nefarious objectives,” he said, and warned that authorities also had to deal “strictly with some internal elements spreading chaos.”
Referring to hybrid, or fifth-generation, warfare, he said: “It is a moment of reflection for all of us that some people are being used by anti-state elements.” He warned that this was intended to “make Pakistan’s roots hollow and damage the country’s unity.” However, he added, such negative objectives would not be allowed to succeed.
#Indian news channels use Arma 3 gameplay footage to claim #Pakistan bombed #Panjshir #Afghanistan.
The footage first appeared on Indian news channels including Republic TV, Times Now Navbharat, Zee Hindustan, and TV9 Bharatvarsh. #fakenews | PC Gamer
It's easy to see how the deceptive edit was made. In Compared Comparison's YouTube video, zoomed-in shots of the attacking aircraft do look moderately convincing, at least until the video zooms out to show the digital anti-air vehicle firing and later blowing up in a not-so-realistic fashion.
During Republic TV's broadcast, the anchor can be heard repeating the claim that the Pakistani airforce performed an airstrike in Panjshir. The claim was originally recognized as fraudulent by Boom, a group that calls itself India's "first and leading fact checking website and initiative," and is a member of the Poynter Institute's International Fact-Checking Network initiative.
Republic TV meanwhile has a sordid history of far right-wing reporting and supporting India's prime minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist policies, according to Aljazeera. Vikas Khanchandani, CEO of ARG (owner of Republic TV) was arrested in December 2020 for allegedly rigging ratings in order to charge advertisers more.
In a bizarre development, some Indian news broadcasts claimed that the Pakistani airforce attacked the Panjshir valley, an Afghanistan mountain province home to about 170,000 people, which is currently the last major holdout of anti-Taliban forces.
The only problem? The footage used to report the supposedly pro-Taliban airforce attack came from the popular military simulation game Arma 3.
The footage first appeared on Indian news channels including Republic TV, Times Now Navbharat, Zee Hindustan, and TV9 Bharatvarsh. The original video was credited to a source called "Hasti TV" on Facebook, which has since been deleted. These Indian news sources claimed the video showed a military jet attempting a bombing run on Panjshir.
In fact, the footage came from this January Arma 3 video from the YouTube channel Compared Comparison, which has now been viewed 23 million times. The gameplay shows players engaging in a ground-to-air battle between a jet and a vehicle-mounted anti-air turret with tracer rounds seen firing through the sky at the jet.
In a statement to PC Gamer, a representative for Arma 3 developer Bohemia Interactive confirmed that the original footage does indeed come from the game.
"Strangely, we've seen this particular game footage be used several times by certain media outlets in support of their real-life news coverage," the Bohemia Interactive rep said. "We know this because we've been previously approached regarding similar occurrences by fact-checkers from organizations such as Agence France-Presse, Check Your Fact, PolitiFact, and if I remember correctly, also Reuters."
Bohemia Interactive added that the game footage used in the erroneous Indian news broadcasts may also have come from two other Arma 3 gameplay clips.
"The clip in the [original viral tweet] is so cropped and low-res that I find it hard to compare and say for sure which it is, but I'm confident it is Arma 3 footage," Bohemia Interactive's rep said.
F16 Shot Down? How #Indian #Media Again ‘Downed A #Pakistan #F16 Jet’ & Triggered A #SocialMedia Storm. Fact-checkers and independent journalists debunked the claim and said the image in question was a #US Airforce F-16 Fighting Falcon https://eurasiantimes.com/f-16-shot-down-how-indian-media-again-downed-a-pakistan-f-16-jet-triggered-a-social-media-storm/ via @THEEURASIATIMES
An image of a downed F-16 fighter aircraft had been repeatedly shown by a section of Indian TV news channels earlier this week, creating a social media storm.
The picture originated from an unverified Twitter handle claiming to be operated by Ahmad Massoud, the son of a legendary Afghan rebel commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The viral tweet with the caption, “The Pakistani Jet Plane that was shot down by the lion cubs” gave the impression that the aircraft was shot down by the Afghan resistance fighters in Panjshir valley.
However, fact-checkers and independent journalists debunked the claim and said the image in question was a US Airforce F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Fact vs Fiction
A 2018 news report by the US-based publication Military Factory confirms that an F-16 had taken off from the Luke Airforce Base in Arizona following which it met with an accident near the Arizona-California border.
The report noted that the pilot had managed to eject in the nick of time and was stable. The jet in question was an F-16C assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing. It seemed the aircraft diverted from its predestined route as the pilot tried to land it inside the Lake Havasu Municipal Airport around 10:50 am local time.
Following the ejection, the pilot was rushed to the Havasu Regional Medical Center. Witnesses in proximity to the crash site posted pictures on social media. A Facebook group in particular called Air Force amn/nco/snco posted pictures of the crash.
Another F-16 operated by the 162nd Wing of the Air National Guard, which trained Iraqi pilots, had also crashed a year before this incident. This marked two F-16 crashes within a year.
The Fighting Falcon
America’s Vietnam debacle led policymakers in Washington to consider designing and developing a light fighter aircraft. USAF’s bulky F-4 Phantom delivered a lackluster performance against the North Vietnamese Airforce.
This led to some soul searching, which eventually resulted in the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon by aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.
F-16s were USAF’s first multi-role jet and have been considered one of the most prolific fighter platforms in military aviation history. The service currently has a fleet of over 2,000 F-16s while another 2,500 are operational in 25 countries including Pakistan.
Colonel Vinay B Dalvi (Retd), author, former Associate Editor of the Fauji Magazine and Chief Editor of Mission Victory India told The EurAsian Time, “While I have never operated aircraft, which is obvious given my humble background as an infantry officer, I have spoken to numerous Indian Air Force officers and aviation veterans during the research of my books. What I have learned is that the F-16 is a highly potent aircraft platform and an excellent war machine.
“Veterans from military aviation circles have often lauded its aerial performance in conversations. Based on this input, I have been able to gauge that the F-16 is incredibly fast, has extreme levels of operational agility, and whatever its pitfalls get made up by its lower cost.”
The F-16 has earned the distinction of being one of the most sophisticated aircraft of its kind and has remained an economically viable option for air forces around the world.
While the F-16 falls short when it comes to range and payload capacities as compared to the specifications offered by twin-engine fighter jets like the F-15 Eagle, it is considered an acceptable tradeoff, given the aircraft’s economic viability which plays a crucial role in procurement.
Ex-Indian army officer shares picture from movie set as 'truth' about Pakistan Army's presence in Panjshir
Former Indian major general believes picture showing Pakistani actors Shaan Shahid and Umair Jaswal is of soldiers in Afghanistan.
A retired Indian army officer became the butt of a joke on Twitter after he mistook a photo from a Pakistani military-themed film as showing Pakistani soldiers who he falsely claimed were martyred in Afghanistan's Panjshir valley.
The apparent confusion started after another former Indian army officer, Maj Gen GD Bakshi, posted a tweet claiming that the Pakistan Army had "suffered very heavy casualties" in Panjshir, where the Taliban and resistance fighters engaged in heavy fighting earlier this month.
Without sharing any evidence, Bakhsi tweeted that dozens of Pakistani soldiers had lost their lives and many others were wounded while supporting the Taliban in Panjshir. He wrote that a certain "Maj Gen Adil Rehmani has come back to organise discreet funerals in [the] dead of night." Even though the account is not verified by Twitter, Bakshi's tweets have been carried by Indian media on multiple occasions in the past.
Bakshi, who had a long career in the Indian army and holds a PhD in military history, is known for peddling fake news and rhetoric on Indian TV. An article by Indian publication The Print last year referred to him as the "shrillest warmonger in the media".
Responding to his latest claims about Pakistani soldiers, a Pakistani account with the handle @Fauji_Doctor shared a picture from the set of the 2017 Pakistani movie *Yalghaar* — ostensibly to poke fun at the Indian ex-officer, and wrote: "My class fellow from school days Maj Aijaj 2nd from left and Capt Jufar 1st from left embraced martyrdom in Panjshir. They were buried yesterday in Peshawar. ISPR is trying to hide these casualties. They fought bravely and should be honoured as such. This is injustice by Pak Army."
In fact, the two uniformed men he referred to are renowned Pakistani actors Shaan Shahid and Umair Jaswal - neither of whom are members of the armed forces.
Unaware of this and apparently without having done any investigation, former Indian Maj Gen Harsha Kakar shared a screenshot of @Fauji_Doctor's reply to Bakshi as "the truth on #PanjshirValley and Pak casualties".
"As expected [National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf] lied and Pak disowned its dead," he alleged.
Pakistanis were amused by the Indian ex-officer's apparent naivete, with Shaan himself replying to Bakshi's original tweet with posters from Yalghaar. "Hello from the other side," he wrote with the pictures.
Jaswal too found the mix-up hilarious, responding to Bakshi with a picture of him in commando gear and writing: "Hello dear [laughing emoji] from Pakistan."
Jumping at the opportunity, other Pakistani users also shared spoof images of Pakistani actors in uniform to add to the joke.
Fake news about Pakistan's military involvement in Afghanistan surfaced as the Taliban said on Monday they had taken control of Panjshir province north of Kabul, the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces in the country and the only province the Taliban had not seized during their blitz across the country last month.
The anti-Taliban forces had been led by the former vice president, Amrullah Saleh, and Ahmad Massoud, whose father was killed just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.
With Taliban fighters advancing into Panjshir, Indian media outlets during the previous week ran unverified claims of Pakistan Air Force planes hovering over Panjshir valley and dropping bombs on resistance fighters in support of the Taliban.
Watch Indian fake news anchor Arnab Goswami claim that Pakistani Army officers retreating from Panjshir Valley are now on the 5th floor of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Fact: There are only three floors, including ground floor, in Kabul Serena hotel building.
In 'The Debate' on Republic World TV last week, Goswami invited Indian analyst General G.D. Bakshi and PTI spokesperson Abdul Samad Yaqoob — to represent Pakistan.
Goswami to Yaqoob: "You go and check today ... on the fifth floor of the Serena Hotel, I am telling you, please check, fifth floor of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, how many Pakistani army officers are there?"
Yaqoob: " "What I got to know from my sources [is that] Serena has only two floors. There are no third, fourth or fifth floors."
Dear Sir Riaz
This is the same Arnab Goswami the Indian Journalist whom I have been following since last 6 years and I have seen the kind of language he uses against Pakistani guests whom he invites on his programs. He was actually a news anchor on "Times Now" news program.
Maria Ressa interview: You can’t negotiate peace if you don’t agree on the factsInterview/ Maria Ressa, CEO, RapplerRiyad Mathew By Riyad Mathew
You said the media lost its gatekeeping powers to technology. How do you take back control and regain the trust of people?
The hard part for journalists is that that’s not within our control anymore. In this new world, you say a lie a million times, it’s a fact. In the old world, you say a lie ten times, journalists can catch up, facts can catch up. But when it’s a million times, exponentially pounded, we don’t stand a chance. If you don’t have facts, you can’t have truths. Without truth, you can’t have trust. The incentive schemes of the internet and social media don’t encourage facts and journalism. They encourage information operations. This is why it’s not a surprise that your government, my government, Russian disinformation, Iranian disinformation, Saudi Arabia… there have been many countries. Oxford University’s computational propaganda research project said, at the beginning of the year, that there are at least 81 countries where cheap armies on social media are rolling back democracy. Meaning, they are insidiously manipulating their people. In which democracy is that okay?
These tech platforms tell us, “Well if you don’t like it, mute it or block it.” Can you imagine a journalist saying that? If you don’t like a fact, ignore it, but the rest of the world can still see it. This is why our public sphere is so broken. The idea behind a tech platform is that we can all have our own realities. It's like we’re living in the matrix, or in our own illusions. This is what is tearing down democracy. You go to the Nobel Peace Prize; you can’t negotiate peace if you don’t agree on the facts, if you don’t agree on your shared reality. I’ll shut up, I think I’ve had too much Coke Zero.
You mentioned how some journalists could have succumbed under pressure. For you, getting arrested made you a stronger person and more committed to the cause. In India, five years ago, there were 10.3 lakh journalists; today it has come down to 2.3 lakh. Around 70 per cent either lost their jobs or left the industry. What do you say to that section of disillusioned journalists?
This is a disruption of our industry. So here’s the biggest problem. To paraphrase the Nobel committee, they said freedom of expression is necessary for a democracy, [and that] the quality of journalists of a democracy is indicative of the quality of its democracy. (Sighs) the problem is, the business model of news has crumbled. And that goes hand in hand with the rise of the technology platforms, which are the very same places that are tearing down the credibility of news. It’s a virtuous horrendous cycle. Part of the reason journalists have been laid off globally is that news organisations have lost their revenue stream, the advertising revenue stream. And where did they flock to? They flocked to the technology platforms that have enabled the attacks against journalists. And yet, as the Nobel committee pointed out, you need journalists to get the facts, especially in conflict areas, especially when authoritarian governments growing into dictatorships, growing into fascism, need to be curbed. I go crazy when people call journalists content creators, because we’re not! It would be very easy to just create content. It isn’t easy to be a good journalist. To stake your life at times if you’re in a war zone, [to stake] your reputation when you’re challenging power. It isn’t easy to go up to somebody who has all the power in your world and demand answers. That takes courage. And that is the commodity that no one can really pay for. That is what the mission of journalism creates. So I worry… sorry, I’m hyper, I’ll tone it down (laughs).
Prominent female #Indian journalists critical of #Modi government targeted by online scammers. Lured with fake job offers from #Harvard University in #Cambridge #Massachusetts. #BJP #Hindu #Hindutva #India https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/technology/harvard-job-scam-india.html?smid=tw-share
Nearly a year later, it is still uncertain why Ms. Razdan and the other women were targeted. Although the scammers expressed support online for the Hindu nationalist movement in India, they shed little light on their decision to trick reporters.
The perpetrators have successfully covered their tracks — at least, most of them. The New York Times reviewed private messages, emails and metadata the scammers sent to the women as well as archives of the scammers’ tweets and photos that the scammers claimed were of themselves. The Times also relied on analysis from researchers at Stanford University and the University of Toronto who study online abuse, and from a cybersecurity expert who examined Ms. Razdan’s computer.
The identities of the scammers remain a secret.
“It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, an institute at the University of Toronto that investigates cyberattacks on journalists. “It’s a huge amount of effort and no payoff that we’ve identified.”
One at a time, the scammers selected their prey.
The first known target: Rohini Singh, an outspoken female journalist who had broken some big stories that powerful men in India didn’t like.
Ms. Singh delivered a blockbuster article in 2017 about the business fortunes of the son of India’s current minister of home affairs. She is a freelance contributor to an online publication called The Wire that is among the most critical of the Hindu nationalist government in India. She has also amassed nearly 796,000 Twitter followers.
The next target was another female journalist, Zainab Sikander. An up-and-coming political commentator, Ms. Sikander campaigns against discrimination toward Muslims, a growing problem under the Hindu nationalist government. She has also written and posted many critical observations of the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Aug. 22, 2019, Ms. Sikander, too, received a Twitter message from Tauseef Ahmad, inviting her to participate in a high-powered media conference at Harvard. It was the same message sent to Ms. Singh, though neither woman knew the other had been targeted.
Just like in Ms. Singh’s case, Tauseef connected her to Alex Hirschman. What she didn’t know was that Alex and Tauseef were likely fake personas — a search of Harvard’s student directory showed no students by either name.
Ms. Sikander also didn’t know that Tauseef’s Twitter account was one of several online personas that were interlinked. Tauseef and Alex seemed so friendly, sending her compliments — and confirmations for the flights and hotels they claimed to have booked.
The next target was another female journalist working at a prominent Indian publication, who spoke with The Times on the condition that she was not identified. Suspicious about the scammer’s U.A.E. phone number, she quickly broke off contact too. But the scammers didn’t give up. By the time they communicated in November 2019 with Nighat Abbass, a spokeswoman for India’s ruling political party, known by its acronym, the B.J.P., they had copied email signatures from real Harvard employees and swiped official letterhead from the university’s website.
In addition to the primary evidence provided by the source, the team at The Wire also employed a wealth of open-source investigative techniques to conduct an extensive forensic analysis of the various social media assets provided by the source, and to corroborate the network infrastructure underpinning the use of the app. The team also interviewed other independent experts and current employees at the organisations implicated in the broader operation in a bid to glean more insight into the network.
Through this process, The Wire was able to build upon these first shreds of evidence and uncover a vast operation pointing towards the existence of a group of public and private actors working together to subvert public discourse in the world's largest democracy by driving inauthentic trends and hijacking conversations across almost all major social media platforms.
The screencasts and screenshots of Tek Fog provided by the source highlighted the various features of the app and helped the team gain further insight into the operational structure of the network of cyber troops using it on a daily basis to manipulate public discourse, harass and intimidate independent voices, and perpetuate a partisan information environment in India.
One of the primary functions of the app is to hijack the 'trending' section of Twitter and 'trend' on Facebook. This process uses the app's in-built automation features to 'auto-retweet' or 'auto-share' the tweets and posts of individuals or groups and spam existing hashtags by accounts controlled by the app operatives.
This feature is also used to amplify right-wing propaganda, exposing this content to a more diverse audience on the platform, making extremist narratives and political campaigns appear more popular than they actually are.
One of the hashtags – #CongressAgainstLabourers – was shared 3by the source at 8:25 pm IST on May 4, 2020, as part of a screenshot revealing their 'daily task' list for that day. According to the same screen, the source was tasked with making the hashtag appear in at least 55,000 tweets and reach the 'trending' section of the platform.
An analysis of the on-platform activity of the hashtag via Meltwater Explore, a social media analysis tool, revealed that the hashtag had first appeared two hours prior on Twitter, eventually peaking at around 9 pm, half an hour after the source had shared the screen. The trend went on to accumulate 57,000 mentions, surpassing their assigned goal by 2,000 tweets. Moreover, the screen also showed how the source had posted the hashtag using 1,700 accounts in the first two hours after 'activating' the task, a fact that was corroborated by this independent analysis with exactly 1,700 accounts posting the hashtag at around 6:30 pm IST.
Your story seems to insinuate certain relationships between the creators of the alleged ‘Tek Fog’ application and Mohalla Tech Private Limited. These are completely incorrect and false, and no such relationships exist between us. We would like to reiterate in absolutely no uncertain terms that we are not aware of, nor have we assisted (financially or otherwise) at any point in time and in any manner, the group of persons related to this ‘Tek Fog’ application. Further, we have no relationship (currently or in the past) with Persistent Systems of any manner whatsoever.
In the interest of transparency, we would request that you share further details of the claims made by you in your article for our teams to investigate.
As a platform, we invest significantly in countering hate speech, misinformation and other forms of harmful content on our platform. This is an ongoing issue that social media platforms across the world are working to solve, and it is well known that such operators spread similar content across platforms as a part of their activities.
To address this specifically, we take the following measures:
We partner with multiple third party fact checkers including BoomLive, Factly, NewsChecker and others to help identify and tag misinformation on the platform in 12 Indic languages including Marathi and Hindi, that covers more than 98% of the content posted on the platform.
We have developed and incorporated technology based tools that help us flag and takedown such content on a regular basis.
Our users also actively participate in the process of content moderation by reporting content on the platform that may violate our rules.
We have large teams both internally and externally that aid us on content moderation and responding to these user reports.
In the month of November 2021 alone, we removed 7,037,688 pieces of content from our platform that were against our community standards. We also aggressively take actions against accounts and in many instances permanently ban user accounts that attempt to spam or otherwise misuse the platform in violation of our terms of service and community guidelines. In the month of November 2021 alone, we took action against 319,701 accounts on the platform.
We would urge you to refer to our monthly transparency reports available at https://help.sharechat.com/transparency-report for greater details.
We reiterate that our company has no connections with this application, persons or companies mentioned by you and such claims are unfounded.
#Indian "journalist" Barkha Dutt tells colleague Madhu Trehan how she self-censored while reporting from #Kargil in 1999. She self-censors "anything she saw that Indian #Army did" in #Indian Occupied #Kashmir "in the interest of national security". #media https://youtu.be/w4woLeBD3r4
How top Meta executive Shivnath Thukral has links with a firm that works for Modi and BJP
Shivnath Thukral, former public policy director of FB India who holds the same designation for WhatsApp in India now, has a close link/association with a company that creates bots to promote Narendra Modi and his party's reach on the social media.
Shivnath Thukral, a public policy director, India, at WhatsApp Inc (owned by Facebook, now known as Meta) since March 2020, had once owned a stake in Opalina Technologies – a company that has provided software solutions for India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, the prime minister’s office, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the ministry of textiles in the union government.
Thukral, who remains one of Meta’s top lobbyists in India, gave up his stakes in Opalina before joining Facebook on October 24, 2017. But Opalina, where Thukral’s father still holds shares, continues to work for the BJP and Modi.
According to the registrar of companies in the government of India’s ministry of corporate affairs, Thukral – who is also former managing editor of NDTV Profit – was a director of Opalina Technologies between March 2015 and October 2017 and owned a 7.5 per cent stake in the company since October 2014.
Just nine days before he joined Facebook India, Thukral resigned as Opalina’s director. Around the same time, he transferred his shares in the company to his father Kul Bhushan Thukral. So, stakes in Opalina remained with the family, even though Shivnath Thukral himself had joined Facebook.
Thukral was public policy director (India and South Asia) at Facebook from October 2017 to March 2020, after which he left the post to become public policy director (India) at WhatsApp. Simultaneously, between October 2020 and September 2021, he was also interim public policy director (India, South and Central Asia) for Facebook after Ankhi Das’s controversial resignation.
Opalina was incorporated in April 2013. The majority shareholders of the company are Satish Chandra and Gaurav Sharma, a former Times Group employee, who are also directors in the company.
Thukral is known for his proximity with PM Modi. He had worked as a part of Modi’s election campaign in 2013 before Modi became India’s prime minister in May 2014. According to unnamed “former Facebook employees” quoted by Time magazine, “a key reason Thukral was hired in 2017 was because he was seen as close to the ruling party”.
Facebook India acknowledged his past association, stating to Time, “we are aware that some of our employees have supported various campaigns in the past both in India and elsewhere in the world”.
Madhu Kishwar, a vociferous supporter of the prime minister, too wrote in her book, Modi, Muslims and Media, that she was introduced to Modi by Thukral at a rally in Bharuch, Gujarat, in 2013.
Opalina’s projects for Modi and the BJP
Online evidence suggests Opalina developed software solutions for Modi’s social media presence and the BJP’s digital campaigns during Modi’s re-election in 2019.
These reporters found a Twitter bot – an autonomous programme on the internet that can interact with network systems or users – that tweeted from Modi’s Twitter account and a Facebook “profile photo frame”, both of which were used as a part of the BJP’s “main bhi chowkidar” campaign on social media a month before the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Both the Twitter bot and the Facebook photo frame were developed by Opalina.
a) Twitter bot for #MainBhiChowkidar
In the run-up to the 2019 election, Rahul Gandhi and the opposition Congress party devised a slogan to target the prime minister – “chowkidar chor hai”, or the watchman is a thief.
My Heart Belongs to Kashmir
An Analysis of a Pro-Indian Army Covert Influence Operation on Twitter
On August 24, 2022, Twitter shared 15 datasets of information operations it identified and removed from the platform with researchers in the Twitter Moderation Research Consortium for independent analysis. One of these datasets included 1,198 accounts that tweeted about India and Pakistan. Twitter suspended the network for violating their Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy, and said that the presumptive country of origin was India. Our report builds on a report on this same network by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
The network tweeted primarily in English, but also in Hindi and Urdu. Accounts claimed to be proud Kashmiris and relatives of Indian soldiers. Tweets praised the Indian Army’s military successes and provision of services in India-administered Kashmir and criticized the militaries of China and Pakistan. Two accounts existed to target specific individuals who were perceived as enemies of the Indian government.
Twitter is not publicly attributing this network to any actor, and the open source evidence did not allow us to make any independent attribution. In the report, however, we highlight some noteworthy articles in the Indian press. These articles show that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have previously temporarily suspended the official accounts for the Chinar Corps. The Chinar Corps is a branch of the Indian army that operates in Kashmir. One article, citing Army officials as its source, says that the Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended for "coordinated inauthentic behavior." Our report also notes that the content of the Twitter network is consistent with the Chinar Corps’ objectives, praising the work of the Indian Army in India-occupied Kashmir, and that the official Chinar Corps Twitter account is one of the most mentioned or retweeted account in the network.
US report unearths Indian army propaganda campaign
The purpose of the Twitter accounts in the network was to praise the Indian Army for their "military successes" and "provision of humanitarian services in India-administered Kashmir".
Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) recently published a report analyzing a pro-Indian Army propaganda campaign on social media.
To clarify, the Stanford Internet Observatory is a program of the Cyber Policy Center which is a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies and the prestigious Stanford Law School in the US.
The report titled “My Heart Belongs to Kashmir: An Analysis of a Pro-Indian Army Covert Influence Operation on Twitter” takes note of a Twitter network that was recently suspended and concludes that the network was consistent with the Chinar Corps.
To clarify, the Chinar Corps is a Corps of the Indian Army that is presently located in Srinagar and responsible for military operations in the Kashmir Valley. Chinar Corps also has social media accounts where it consistently promotes a positive image of the Indian Army despite its internationally recognized human rights violations in Kashmir. Moreover, the social media accounts of Chinar Corps were suspended and blocked for short periods of time on multiple occasions for “coordinated inauthentic activity”.
Last month, Twitter identified a network of over 1000 accounts that tweeted about India and Pakistan. Twitter suspended the network for violating its Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy and said that the presumptive country of origin was India.
The SIO report notes that while the network was not attributed to any actor or organization, there were many similarities to the Chinar Corps.
“The content of the Twitter network is consistent with the Chinar Corps’ objectives, praising the work of the Indian Army in India-occupied Kashmir,” the SIO report states.
The network was made up of several Twitter accounts posing as fake Kashmiris with images taken from elsewhere on the internet, for instance, Getty Stock Images.
“Tweets tagging journalists aimed either to bring events to the attention of reporters or to bring the reporter to the attention of followers—often in an apparent attempt to target the reporter for what was framed as anti-India content,” the report further revealed.
Moreover, the purpose of the Twitter accounts in the network was to praise the Indian Army for their “military successes” and “provision of humanitarian services in India-administered Kashmir”. The accounts also criticized Pakistan and China who are rivals of India.
Pentagon Orders Review of Its Overseas Social Media Campaigns
The move comes after Twitter and Facebook shut down misleading accounts that they determined were sending messages to promote U.S. foreign policy.
WASHINGTON — White House officials told the military that they were concerned about its efforts to spread pro-American messaging on social media, prompting the Pentagon to order a review of secretive operations to influence populations overseas, U.S. officials said.
The review follows a decision by Twitter and Facebook over the summer to shut down misleading accounts that they determined were sending messages about U.S. foreign policy interests abroad.
The Pentagon audit and White House concerns were first reported by The Washington Post.
Disinformation researchers said the campaigns largely fell into two camps. Most of the campaigns spread pro-American messages, including memes and slogans that praised the United States. Those programs were similar to how Beijing often spreads disinformation by seeding positive messages about life in China.
One campaign targeting Iran, however, spread divisive messages about life there. The accounts involved pushed out views that both supported and opposed the Iranian government. That disinformation effort resembled the methods used by Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
For years U.S. military commands have promoted pro-American news and messages for audiences overseas, sometimes earning the scrutiny of Congress. But the decision by the social media companies to shut down some accounts associated with the military suggested that the activity had gone further.
Twitter and Meta, the parent company of Facebook, removed accounts that they said violated their terms of service by taking part in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
A report in August by Stanford University’s Internet Observatory and the social media analytics firm Graphika said those accounts were pushing pro-American messages in the Middle East and Central Asia. The two groups attributed some of the accounts taken down by Facebook and Twitter to the Trans-Regional Web Initiative, a more than 10-year-old Pentagon initiative that sends out information in support of the United States in areas where the U.S. military operates.
The postings varied widely in sophistication. Some of the more polished work was aimed at Twitter and Telegram users in Iran and pushed a wide variety of views. While most of the messages were critical of the Iranian government, researchers said others were supportive of it, the kind of activity that could potentially be designed to inflame debate and sow divisions in the country.
The two men were unlikely candidates to work in the news business.
Neither had a background in journalism, but both were alarmed with the surge of misinformation in India that followed the rise of Narendra Modi as the Hindu nationalist prime minister. To take on this problem, the men, both engineers, started Alt News in 2017.
Led by its founders, Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha, Alt News has criticized supporters and officials of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party for their statements targeting minorities.
But in a reflection of the growing concerns about the independence and freedom of the news media in India, Mr. Zubair has landed in the authorities’ cross hairs. He has been arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiments and is being investigated by the police after anonymous critics and B.J.P. officials accused him of spreading communal unrest.
“People in power want to shut me up for exposing their propaganda, their lies and their hate campaigns,” Mr. Zubair, 40, said in an interview. “They want to scare other journalists and activists by targeting me.”
Mr. Zubair, a Muslim, said that rather than amplifying misinformation and hate speech, he was trying to highlight them so the authorities could take action. Still, he worried for his family’s safety this summer as #arrestzubair trended on Twitter. He temporarily stopped his children from riding their bicycles outside and from going to school.
The media landscape in India started to change when Mr. Modi came to power in 2014. His party realized the potential of reaching voters directly via social media and spent millions of dollars to mold public perception on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Critics say that engagement, and later copycat efforts from other political parties, lacked the filter of a traditional news organization and targeted millions of people who were using the internet for the first time.
“I could also see that propaganda was building up and how misinformation was part of that,” said Mr. Sinha, then a software engineer in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, who started debunking misleading photographs. He was not the first person in his family to take on Mr. Modi’s acolytes; his parents were activists who had faulted Mr. Modi for not doing enough to stop violence against Muslims in the deadly Gujarat riots of 2002, when he was chief minister of the state.
Around the same time in Bangalore, Mr. Zubair, an engineer from a family of farmers, was also taken aback by the increasing spread of misinformation among Indians. His first attempt at tackling the problem was with satire, creating a social media account that was a parody of a leader of India’s governing party. His musings attracted an audience, and soon he crossed paths with Mr. Sinha.
At the Ahmedabad office one recent morning, Mr. Zubair, Mr. Sinha and the rest of the team huddled to discuss which news and information to track, prioritizing whatever might have the potential to cause harm. They scoured WhatsApp groups for leads. Mrs. Sinha worked with an accountant on Alt News’s finances.
Nearby, another employee, Kinjal Parmar, replayed a viral video of a mob beating a man viciously, frame by frame. Soon she reaffirmed the conclusion her co-workers had reached: The footage was of a personal dispute, not of a Muslim man’s lynching. Next, she posted an article on the Alt News site that corrected the record, reducing the chances that the video would inflame communal tensions.
Ms. Parmar, who trained as a journalist, said no special skills were needed to be a fact checker, except an eye for spotting what’s amiss. She said the work was a mission for her.
“Our job entails providing every citizen the right to correct information,” she said. “And in times of so much fake information, it becomes all the more important in a democracy like India.”
Video: Indian Film Festival IFFI Jury Head Calls 'Kashmir Files' "Vulgar"
Calling it "propaganda" and a "vulgar movie", Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who headed the IFFI jury, said "all of them" were "disturbed and shocked" to see the film screened at the festival.
New Delhi: The jury of 53rd International Film Festival in Goa has slammed the controversial movie "The Kashmir Files", which revolves around the killings and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 from Kashmir Valley. Calling it "propaganda" and a "vulgar movie", Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who headed the IFFI jury, said "all of them" were "disturbed and shocked" to see the film screened at the festival.
"It seemed to us like a propagandist movie inappropriate for an artistic, competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage. Since the spirit of having a festival is to accept also a critical discussion which is essential for art and for life," Mr Lapid said in his address.
The Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi starrer, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, was featured in the "Panorama" section of the festival last week.
The film has been praised by the BJP and has been declared tax-free in most BJP-ruled states and was a box office hit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have praised on the movie.
Many, however, have criticised the content, calling it a one-sided portrayal of the events that is sometimes factually incorrect and claiming the movie has a "propagandist tone".
In May, Singapore banned the movie, citing concerns over its "potential to cause enmity between different communities".
"The film will be refused classification for its provocative and one-sided portrayal of Muslims and the depictions of Hindus being persecuted in the ongoing conflict in Kashmir," read a statement from the Singapore government, reported news agency Press Trust of India.
Mr Agnihotri has alleged an "international political campaign" against him and his film by foreign media.
He claimed this was the reason his press conference was cancelled by the Foreign Correspondents Club and the Press Club of India in May.
Pew talks about how Muslims were blamed and targeted during the COVID pandemic.
In India, Islamophobic hashtags like #CoronaJihad circulated widely on social media, seeking to blame Muslims for the virus.
In India, there were multiple reports of Muslims being attacked after being accused of spreading the coronavirus.
In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced in April 2020 that more than 900 members of the Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat and other foreign nationals (most of whom were Muslim) had been placed “in quarantine” after participating in a conference in New Delhi allegedly linked to the spread of early cases of coronavirus. (Many of those detained were released or granted bail by July 2020.)
Pandemic-related killings of religious minorities were reported in three countries in 2020, according to the sources analyzed in the study. In India, two Christians died after they were beaten in police custody for violating COVID-19 curfews in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Anti-Muslim bigotry that blamed the Tablighi Jamaat but allowed much bigger Kumbh mela gathering to go forward in the middle of India's worst COVID outbreak killed 4.7 million Indians.
What is much more evident is how the incident and the BJP’s rhetoric fueled hate speech and bigotry against Muslims in the early stages of the pandemic. Muslims were blamed for deliberately spreading the virus across India by waging what Hindutva adherents claimed was a “corona jihad”.
For months, headlines, incendiary statements, and viral videos sought to convey the idea that the spread of the virus in the country was the responsibility of a single community.
Imagine if the Tablighi Jamaat gathering had been happening right now, with India in the grip of a brutal second wave of Covid-19 and daily case counts hitting numbers far higher than the worst days of 2020. Imagine the response of the BJP and India’s pro-government news channels if a police person had said something like this:
“We are continuously appealing to people to follow Covid appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing… A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats so we are unable to enforce social distancing here.”
It is not hard to imagine the anger and demands for accountability that might have been unleashed by a comment like that, from a senior police officer.
So what explains the relative silence of the government and the BJP when the same comment comes from the Inspector General of the Kumbh Mela currently taking place in Uttarakhand?
This was what Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said on March 20:
“I invite all devotees across the world to come to Haridwar and take a holy dip in the Ganga during Mahakumbh. Nobody will be stopped in the name of Covid-19 as we are sure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus.”
While claiming that all Central guidelines would be followed and that only those with a negative RT-PCR would be allowed to come, Rawat repeatedly said there would be no “rok-tok” or obstacles. “There is no strictness,” he said. “But Covid-19 guidelines should be followed… It’s open for everyone.”
Hindu Nationalists often quote known fake sites set up by their Hindutva friends. These sites have now been fully exposed.
Both Op India and thedisinfolab.org are part of the Hindutva disinformation campaigns to spew hatred against Muslims.
OpIndia is a propaganda outlet controlled by BJP.
OpIndia: Hate speech, vanishing advertisers, and an undisclosed BJP connection
Ashok Kumar Gupta, the director of OpIndia’s holding company, has had affiliations with the Sangh Parivar.
“In India, politics and journalism attract some of the worst brains, thanks to the system that has evolved over time,” read the About Us section of OpIndia, a popular Hindu supremacist website, in December 2014, nearly a year after it was launched. “OpIndia.com is an attempt to break free of this system.”
https://thedisinfolab.org is a clone of EU Disinfo Lab set up by Hindu Nationalists to fool the world.
The real EU Disinfo Lab website is https://www.disinfo.eu/
Here's a link to the REAL Disinfo Lab: https://www.disinfo.eu/publications/indian-chronicles-deep-dive-into-a-15-year-operation-targeting-the-eu-and-un-to-serve-indian-interests/
Indian Chronicles: deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and UN to serve Indian interests
Following a preliminary investigation published in 2019, the EU DisinfoLab uncovered a massive operation targeting international institutions and serving Indian interests. “Indian Chronicles” – the name we gave to this operation – resurrected dead media, dead think-tanks and NGOs. It even resurrected dead people. This network is active in Brussels and Geneva in producing and amplifying content to undermine – primarily – Pakistan.
Irony: Indians clone EU Disinfo Lab website in propaganda push
Disinformation Campaign on Twitter: Pro-India accounts ...
Indian Chronicles: deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and UN to serve Indian interests.
Disinfo Lab: An Online Hindu Nationalist Disinformation ...
Feb 9, 2022 — CJ Werleman looks at evidence of a co-ordinated and sophisticated effort to smear critics of the right wing Indian Prime Minister.
Pro-Indian 'fake websites targeted decision makers in Europe'
Dec 16, 2019 — A global network of pro-Indian fake websites and think-tanks is aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe, researchers say.
The co-ordinated network of 265 sites operates across 65 countries, according to a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO.
The researchers traced the websites to an Indian company, Srivastava Group.
The network was also found to involve groups responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe
Disinformation Campaign on Twitter: Pro-India accounts ...
Oct 22, 2020 — On the eve and day of October 21, 2020, there was a flurry of pro-India Twitter accounts creating the narrative that there was a ‘civil war’ unfolding in Pakistan
The dead professor and the vast pro-India disinformation ...
Dec 10, 2020 — The EU DisinfoLab researchers, who are based in Brussels, believe the network's purpose is to disseminate propaganda against India's neighbour ...
Indian Chronicles: EU Think Tank Claims to Have Uncovered 15-Year-Old Pro-India Influence Operation
Dec 12, 2020 — A European Union (EU) non-profit group researching disinformation campaigns claims to have unearthed a 2005 influence operation “targeting international institutions and serving Indian interests”, which carried out by “dead media, dead think-tanks and NGOs” and in some cases, “dead people”.
“It is the largest network we have exposed,” said Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU DisinfoLab (DL) to the BBC. He added, “It was designed primarily to discredit Pakistan internationally and influence decision-making at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and European Parliament.”
That study began as a probe into possible Russian disinformation when articles published on Russia Today were republished on a website, ‘EP Today’, which led the investigators to the network of sites and NGOs, largely linked to the New Delhi-based Srivastava Group (SG).
Irony: Indians clone EU Disinfo Lab website in propaganda push
Feb 12, 2022 — Australian journalist exposes forgery, gets Twitter to remove verified status
In December 2020, the EU Disinfo Lab exposed a network of Indian websites pushing false information across the internet. In an ironic turn of events, Indians now have cloned the Disinfo Lab website to advance their propaganda, targetting Muslims and specifically Pakistanis and Kashmiris.
The Indian clone of Disinfo Lab became active soon after the EU Disinfo Lab first published a preliminary investigation in 2019 and then in December 2020 released the “Indian Chronicles,” a report detailing 750 "fake media outlest", fake editors and journalists, UN-accredited NGOs, and cases of identity theft to target Pakistan.
Digital Disinformation in India: An Attack on Mental Autonomy
Feb 18, 2022 — In India, the spread of disinformation or fake news is neither unintentional nor inconsequential. It is a carefully orchestrated operation, ...
Hate in the Time of the Virus: Covid-19, Fake News, and Islamophobia in India
Jul 28, 2022 — The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a new wave of Islamophobic rhetoric in India. Focusing on the aftermath of the March 2020 Tablighi Jamaat event, Anirban Baishya, with funding from the SSRC’s Rapid-Response Covid-19 grant, investigates how mis/disinformation and anti-Muslim messages spread through media, jumping from social media to mainstream outlets.
How did India become a fake news hotspot? | DW News
Aug 11, 2022 — Low digital literacy, political and religious biases, as well as the functionality of social media platforms have turned India into a hub for fake news. But how can this be countered?
Fake News, Quackery Mar India's COVID Fight but Government is Doing Nothing About Infodemic - The Wire
May 23, 2021 — While social media is full of disinformation about COVID-19, none of which has prompted corrective measures from the government, the IT ministry's only warning on 'false news' and misinformation is on the use of the term 'Indian variant' for B.1.167.
India & COVID-19: Misinformation and the Downside of Social Media
Apr 6, 2020 — As the world fights COVID-19 (coronavirus), the online public sphere across the world is witnessing unprecedented misinformation and fake news. Misinformation is contributing to paranoia and making the fight against COVID-19 even tougher. The situation in India provides a prominent example.
India has more fake news than any other country in the world: Survey
Nearly 60% of Indians had seen fake news against the global average of 57%, said a recent survey.
Overall, India ranked seventh in Microsoft’s ‘Digital Civility’ Index.
It found that the spread of online risks by family and friends in India have been increasing sharply by nine percentage points to 29%.
Fake news continues to be a growing menace in India, which has seen the most number of fake news incidents compared to anywhere else in the world, a recent survey by Microsoft has warned.
Over 60% of Indians said they had seen fake news online against the global average of 57%, according to findings of a survey by Microsoft.
More than half of the surveyed respondents also said they had faced Internet hoaxes, a figure that was significantly higher than the global average of 50%. While another 42% said they had witnessed phishing or spoofing, according to the survey.
Microsoft released its 3rd ‘Digital Civility Index,’ which measures patterns in online civility and behavioral risk in 22 countries including India. As per the survey, India ranked 7th in Digital Civility Index globally.
The survey studied a number of online risks such as attempts at gathering personal information, online bullying, unwelcome messages seeking sexual favours, and misinformation and fake news.
Hindutva supporters love to quote OpIndia which is among the largest purveyors of hate speech and fake news.
OpIndia: Hate speech, vanishing advertisers, and an undisclosed BJP connection
And yet, as of June 2020, about two dozen companies have withdrawn advertisements from OpIndia, citing “insidious content” and “hateful views”, as part of a campaign by Stop Funding Hate, an advocacy group based in the United Kingdom. Moreover, despite its complaints about dishonesty and distortion in the India media, OpIndia has never disclosed that the director of the company which owns it, and its holding company, has had ties to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
In a 2014 interview with Swarajya, Rahul Raj, one of the three founders of OpIndia, explained the website’s raison d'être in greater detail. “These days when I look into posts by the media, I can clearly see that they are manipulating people. They are working as propaganda machines,” Raj said, adding that he wanted to “decode” why news consumers had to rely on media that was out to manipulate them. OpIndia, in his words, was started to explore the gap between “what is being reported and what the facts are”.
Six years down the line, OpIndia has morphed from a “media commentary” blog tilting towards the governing BJP into a website promoting and defending Hindu supremacy and chauvinism, and a vibrant source of misinformation targeting Muslims, liberals, leftists, “the establishment”, and critics and political opponents of the BJP.
A dataset prepared by Newslaundry shows that in the last two years alone, fact-checkers and news outlets have reported at least 25 instances of false news and no less than 14 instances of misreporting on OpIndia. In 2019, Rahul Raj, no longer associated with the website, tweeted that he had “distanced” himself from the website because it became a “blind mouthpiece of BJP”.
In May, the website was booked by the Bihar police for introducing a fabricated communal angle to the death of a 15-year-old boy in Gopalganj district. OpIndia had done a series of reports alleging that the minor had been killed in a “human sacrifice” ritual, supposedly to make a local mosque more powerful. The police clarified that the village did not have a mosque. In response, Rahul Roushan, OpIndia’s CEO, sulkedthat the website was facing “harassment” and “a coordinated attack from the usual suspects” and that the “only mistake” the website’s editors made “was that they were standing on the wrong side of the ideological divide”.
How did India become a fake news hot spot?
Low digital literacy, political and religious biases, as well as the functionality of social media platforms, have turned India into a hub for fake news. But how can this be countered?
Media outlets including ANI shared the photo of a padlocked grave with the claim that parents in Pakistan were locking daughters' graves to avoid rape. The photo is from Hyderabad, India and the grave is reportedly of an aged woman.
The image of a padlocked grave has gone viral. In media reports and social media posts, it is being linked to rising necrophilia cases in Pakistan, with the claim that the image is an example of how mothers lock their daughters’ graves in Pakistan in order to prevent rape.
ANI Digital tweeted the image with the above claim. In their article titled ‘Pakistani parents lock daughters’ graves to avoid rape’, they cited a Daily Times article to report that parents in Pakistan guarded their dead daughters against rape by putting padlocks on their graves. The viral picture has been used in the ANI article with the caption, ‘Pakistani parents locking up graves of daughters to protect their dead bodies from getting raped’ and they have credited Twitter for the image. (Archive)
Media misreport: Viral photo of grave with iron grille is from Hyderabad, not Pakistan
Impact Of Fake News On Pakistan – OpEd
By Muhammad Usman Ghani
Pakistan, like the rest of the world, is facing a major threat from fake news. Access to news, political division, manipulation of social media conversations, trust in the news media, health information, and hate speech are all things that fake news has caused or spread.
According to a report by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), from 2015 to 2020, the number of Pakistani broadband Internet users went from 17 million to 83 million, which is almost a fourfold increase. The number of mobile broadband users grew the most. Despite a considerable digital divide—Internet penetration is less than 44% of the population—the availability of 3G and 4G mobile Internet has also led to a small but consistent growth in social media use. From 2013 on, political debates on the two biggest social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, became more popular in Pakistan. This followed a trend that was almost identical to the one seen in the United States. MMfD published that nine out of ten Pakistanis currently see disinformation as an issue, and seventy percent of the population thinks Facebook’s platform is utilized most often to propagate misinformation in the nation.
Fake news messages have significantly impacted the public’s opinion of Pakistan’s anti-polio vaccination campaign. In order to discourage parents from vaccinating their children, these misinformation tactics draw on existing vaccine scepticism and common religious or xenophobic stereotypes. In 2019, a fake video about how vaccinations affect children caused hundreds of thousands of Facebook users to interact with false anti-vaccine information. This may have been part of a chain of events that led to the suspension of the country’s anti-polio vaccination campaign. Similarly, press reports and public surveys revealed that COVID-19 misinformation campaigns caused many to believe the coronavirus was a foreign scheme, an overblown danger, or a fake. Such ideas seem to have directly affected people’s attitude about COVID-19 precautions, as seen by the public’s irresponsible behavior before the second coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. The COVID-19 deception also caused some to avoid medical care and commit violent crimes against health personnel. People were getting the wrong idea from fake messages and conspiracy theories that doctors were working together to make more people die from the coronavirus.
“DisInfo Lab,” a non-governmental organization based in the EU, created a matrix of the Indian misinformation campaign in 2019 and 2020. This campaign relied heavily on fake news sources in social media and mainstream media to lobby international and civil society against Pakistan. Since 2005, the Indian news agency Asian News International (ANI) and the Delhi-based Shrivastava group have contributed to the creation of 256 anti-Pakistan websites that disseminate false information to 65 countries. Reports say that important parts of the larger syndicate were social organizations and humanitarian groups with ties to the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). Nearly ten UNHRC-affiliated NGOs have been identified as spreading anti-Pakistan propaganda. During the campaign, Dr. Louis B. Sohn, a Harvard professor of International Humanitarian Law, took part in humanitarian conferences about the Baloch separatist movement in 2011.
This cyber misinformation effort, which lasted for over a decade, was reportedly signed in placing Pakistan on the “grey list” of the FATF, which carries accusations of funding violent extremism. Since then, Pakistan has worked hard to change the mix of false ideas about it. The current government of Pakistan has put out a detailed report on how India has lied and been dishonest in international affairs. Still, the United Nations Security Council and its important P5 members haven’t done much to deal with or stop the growing threat.
#India (ranked 161 among 180 countries) drops below #Pakistan (ranked 150) in #PressFreedomIndex Rankings for 2023. In the rankings for 2022, it was India that was ranked 150, while Pakistan came in at 157. #Fakenews #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #Fascism https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-slips-in-world-press-freedom-index-ranks-161-out-of-180-countries/article66806608.ece
India slips in World Press Freedom Index, ranks 161 out of 180 countries
In comparison, Pakistan climbed up seven ranks to reach 150 this year.
May 03, 2023 10:34 am | Updated May 04, 2023 10:47 am IST - New Delhi
THE HINDU BUREAU
India’s ranking in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries, according to the latest report released by global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In comparison, Pakistan has fared better when it comes to media freedom as it was placed at 150, an improvement from last year’s 157th rank. In 2022, India was ranked at 150.
Sri Lanka also made significant improvement on the index, ranking 135th this year as against 146th in 2022
Norway, Ireland and Denmark occupied the top three positions in press freedom, while Vietnam, China and North Korea constituted the bottom three.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) comes out with a global ranking of press freedom every year. RSF is an international NGO whose self-proclaimed aim is to defend and promote media freedom. Headquartered in Paris, it has consultative status with the United Nations. The objective of the World Press Freedom Index, which it releases every year, “is to compare the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories” in the previous calendar year.
Also read: Exponential rise in attacks on press freedom: PCI-IWPC
RSF defines press freedom as “the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.”
The Indian Women's Press Corps, the Press Club of India, and the Press Association released a joint statement voicing their concern over the country's dip in the index.
"The indices of press freedom have worsened in several countries, including India, according to the latest RSF report," the joint statement said.
"For developing democracies in the Global South where deep pockets of inequities exist, the media's role cannot be understated. Likewise the constraints on press freedom due to hostile working conditions like contractorisation have to also be challenged. Insecure working conditions can never contribute to a free press," it added.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too, commented on the embarrassing development.
"Time for all of us to hang our heads in shame: India slips in World Press Freedom Index, ranks 161 out of 180 countries," he wrote on Twitter.
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