The Lying Indian Media Caught Red Handed!
In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-hand man and home minister Amit Shah told his party's volunteers commonly known as Modi Bhakts: "We can keep making messages go viral, whether they are real or fake, sweet or sour". "Keep making messages go viral. We have already made a WhatsApp group with 32 lakh people in Uttar Pradesh; every morning they are sent a message at 8 am", Shah added, according to a report in Dainik Bhaskar, an Indian Hindi-language daily newspaper.
|Indian Fake News Peddlers Rahul Kanwal (L) and Arnab Goswami|
Amit Shah's advice has been heeded by not only BJP trolls but also many in the Indian mainstream media, including India Today and Republic TV.
After the 2019 aerial battle between Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force over Kashmir, India government and media claimed shooting down a Pakistani F-16. India Today TV anchor Rahul Kanwal invited Abhijit Aiyar Mitra, an Indian aviation expert, to confirm that the wreckage he was showing as evidence was that of a Pakistani F-16.
Mr. Mitra embarrassed his host on live TV by debunking the claim and correctly stating that Pakistani F-16s are equipped with Pratt and Whitney engines and what the TV host was calling a Pakistani F-16 engine was made by a different manufacturer. Watch it here:
In a recent airing of 'The Debate' on Republic World TV, host Arnab 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?"
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"
South Asia Investor Review
India's Firehose of Falsehood
East Pakistan "Genocide" Headline
Ex Indian Spy On RAW's Successes Against Pakistan
Fact Checkers Destroy Indian Media Credibility
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
Joe Biden: "The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press...And I think, with your permission, we should not answer questions because they won't ask any questions on point"
Modi said he completely agreed with Biden as they began their talks in the Oval Office.
As the two leaders sat down, Biden said: "I think what they're going to do is bring in the press. The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press"
And I think, with your permission, we should not answer questions because they won't ask any questions on point.
Modi said he completely agreed with him.
While the two leaders have met earlier when Biden was the Vice President of the country, this is for the first time that Biden is meeting Modi after he became the 46th president of the US in January.
4 key complaints:
1. Biden did not receive Modi at the White House porch.
2. US media did not cover Modi's visit. (Imran Khan was on Newsweek cover while Modi was in Washington).
3. Kamala Harris lectured Modi on democracy.
4. Joe Biden lectured Modi on tolerance.
#Trump received #ImranKhan at the White House driveway. #Biden did not bother to come out to receive Modi. #Modi entered through the backdoor.
A major world event and a huge success — but only by the Indian media for their audience back home.
The media reactions to the visit and its aftermath followed the usual playbook. Republic TV made it sound like Modi was the only foreign dignitary to speak at the UNGA. Zee News ran with silly stories of “Josh high in Washington,” and breathless accounts of a grand welcome home. Aaj Tak was keen to emphasise how this trip had many firsts. Times Now presented it as a pivotal geopolitical moment.
Some things do not change. Even in 2019, PM Modi’s visit was presented as a major world event and a huge success but only by the Indian media for their audience back home, but it barely registered as a footnote in the US media. Then too, as Shoaib Danyal put it, “jingoism took precedence over factual reporting about the UN session”. There was barely a mention of the Modi visit in the US media save a brief mention in the context of the QUAD meeting, much to the surprise of Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap who tried flicking through a selection of US papers on air to spot coverage of the Modi visit.
Indeed very few Indian media outlets, if any at all, took the trouble to research what the 76th UNGA was about, and what the stand was of the other world leaders who also addressed the General Assembly. A cursory search on Google would have led even a rookie journalist to a wealth of information about the agenda, background papers, and issues before the UN.
Instead they focused exclusively and breathlessly on the 20-minute long address by PM Modi on September 25. The speech itself was as might have been expected. It sounded like a robust and combative defense of the Indian Government’s record in office in the last seven years; set against a backdrop of statements about India as an ancient democratic civilisation that inherently valued diversity, individual freedom, development, trade, openness and peace.
There was the obligatory reference to terrorism, of course, and how a certain neighbour sought to rely on terrorism rather than development to further its political aims.
Speaking in Hindi with instantaneous translation by the UN team into several languages, Modi’s speech at the UN was not the eagerly anticipated address that Indian media channels would have you believe. It was left to social media and Twitter handles to point out the preponderance of vacant seats in the assembly Hall
In the final analysis, it depends very much on the newspaper you read or the TV news you watch to get a feel for how important or influential the Indian PM’s visit to the US was. Perhaps, the truth is somewhere between the breathless fawning coverage of the TV channels that are beholden to the Government for its largesse and the somewhat cynical view expressed in this tweet thread.
Such visits by the head of the country’s government to gatherings of major world leaders are important and necessary, even if not essential — because not to make the effort to travel and be seen would be an own goal. But part of the magic is to manage expectations, say the right things at the right time, but to do so in an understated manner that does not make the audience cynical. But perhaps the most important thing is to be accessible to the world’s press.
This visit to the United States was the 6th by Mr Modi. And while there were many ‘firsts’ that his supporters claimed for it, regrettably it was not the first foreign trip in which the Indian Prime Minister gave a press conference.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday faced a number of questions on Biden's comments.
Psaki said: "I think what he (Biden) said is that they (American journalists) are not always “on point.”
Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.
On India’s role in Afghanistan, he said that Delhi had been busy nurturing its relationship with the national government, forgetting that there was an Afghanistan beyond Kabul. Excerpts from an interview:
What role do you see for Delhi in Afghanistan?
India did many things in Afghanistan. It pumped in cash and resources and created a relationship, but perhaps its biggest failing was that it was late in [reaching out to] the other side (Taliban). Kabul is not equivalent to Afghanistan; India put too [much trust] in the US mirage there. It went late to Doha. Its reach mirrored the US’s. We must remember that the Taliban is not India’s enemy. It never was.
As much as Indian intelligence agencies like R&AW want to build a narrative that Pakistan will be the biggest worry again, there is evidence to suggest that groups that have decamped as a result of constant purging by Pakistan are now operating in the lawless lands across the Durand Line. Elements of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba are forming deadly battle-hardened groups inside southern Afghanistan and will attack anyone, including Pakistan.
What are the other worries in Afghanistan?
First, it is the chaotic space created in places in Afghanistan by insurgents who fled Waziristan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), where terror groups are deeply entrenched inside communities. They will continue to spark tension around the Durand Line and beyond. Second, there are spoilers like Iran, which has funded sections of the Taliban to hamper the US; and Russia, which had previously lost in Afghanistan, and is engaged in a contest with Washington. There is Turkey, which is deep into Pakistan, rivalling Saudi, and wants to be seen as a regional power. So, the failed state and the spoilers together pave the way for a breeding ground for evil forces and dangerous groups to thrive.
In 20 years, there have been some changes. The Pakistan army has come through 18 years of war for the better, and Rawalpindi has spent a lot of money to fortify the Durand Line with fencing and tech. What is far from clear is how and whether adventurist elements within the military and the intelligence establishment have now been enabled, too, to prosecute their old anti-India project.
In the book, you draw links between the 2019 Pulwama attack and Afghanistan.
Jaish-e-Mohammad plotted Pulwama inside Afghanistan. They had occupied compounds alongside Al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits. While the public statements and perception were completely different, that the ISI and the Pakistan military establishment were to blame, the facts suggested that the command and control structure was inside Afghanistan. If you look at the aetiology of forensics, a similar device was used in the 2008 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. Aluminium powder was used to create enormous heat. So, what you have are Al Qaeda engineers, Jaish leaders and even men trained by the now dead [Al Qaeda] commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who targeted Pulwama. What we see is how few people are needed to spill blood and create the architecture of terror. But what happens afterwards, despite the evidence, is that India lambasts Pakistan. The political project takes over.
So are you saying that R&AW is good at perception management?
India has had great success in projecting itself as benign. It is a masterful thing done through soft and hard power, where you gather a cloak around yourself to disguise all hot actions and instead portray yourself as being the patient, perpetual victim of Pakistan terror. Good play, as ISI would say. There has been Pakistan-backed terror and insurgency. But that is all we see.
Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.
In the book, you describe Kulbhushan Jadhav as an asset and not an officer. What is the difference?
In Jadhav, Pakistan spotted an opportunity. India required a new facility post 26/11; there was a need to step up and deploy assets that had access deep inside Pakistan and neighbouring countries to illuminate operations by Jaish, LeT and Al Qaeda. Given that actions by these groups had been switched down to only a simmer in Kashmir, they re-formed in Karachi and elsewhere looking for new routes to attack India. All agencies in India needed to reset around this thesis, be it the Indian Navy, the Intelligence Bureau or R&AW.
India worked hard to make connections through assets in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and [among] Baloch nationalists, as well as seeking influence in places like Iran’s Chabahar Port, which was the natural competitor to Gwadar Port. So, there is China and Pakistan in Gwadar and R&AW and Iran in Chabahar. What we have are two ports of extreme strategic importance in Central Asia. And then there is Kulbhushan Jadhav working in Chabahar, but also able to traverse Pakistan and India. The man has at least two forms of official identity, mis-describing his religion and an actual address in Mumbai that the ISI learns is linked to a former senior police officer. The ISI sees a perfect opportunity to trap India. To build Jadhav from a roving itinerant—a roving ear—into being seen as an Indian master spy.
Are you saying Pakistan’s claim on Jadhav is real?
What cops do is detect crimes and put them through the criminal justice system, but what spymasters do is latch on to a crime and let it run as long as possible to see what the man is up to. They germinated an idea—in this case a conspiracy to attack a Pakistan air force base—and thrust upon him plans for the base, making him a party in a serious criminal conspiracy. They waited to see whom he would contact. Would he find a Baloch national? All along, in the background, they know he is a family man with kids. So, Jadhav gets jammed between spy wars of two sides.
In spy wars, enemy's enemy is your friend. How true is it for India?
Agencies like R&AW and Intelligence Bureau are using forces and assets and officers of every kind against Pakistan. This is classic intelligence work and this is what R&AW should be doing and is doing, while shielding its actions. It did that with MQM, when it was divided and its leader took asylum in London - recruiting inside MQM. The agency does this in London, Vienna, Geneva and other safe European havens and not within the theatre which is Pakistan. It does this with other outfits in Kashmir and along the Durand Line.
Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.
Did you see a rivalry between the R&AW and IB?
The IB became frustrated by not only the monopolisation of technical resources by the R&AW after 26/11 especially but also the scope of their operations. Although India is the theatre of action for IB, its officers told us that since the terror plans are brewed abroad, they too wanted operations tracking and eavesdropping outside India. That's also where a man like Jadhav comes in.
What we see - and more specifically what ISI might see - are only glimpses.
What are the ills plaguing the R&AW?
The organisation hollowed out after partition and became quite communal. The senior R&AW officers wanted and want to remove the IPS recruitment system and rigid promotions structure and start recruiting across religions, communities and languages. Some others want to involve the diaspora which speaks all languages. But, even today, hardly any Muslim officer has made it to the top in intelligence agencies.
But these are struggles the MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI have all had - becoming more like the societies they have to operate in. Relying on technical intel is not enough. RAW also desired a conditional role and a charter but these have been denied by many different governments that have resisted reform so that the intel agencies can continue to be political tools.
R&AW is suspected to be behind the Pegasus snooping scandal. Your comments.
We must look at the sequence of events. After 2001, the coming together of US and Pakistan enraged India which felt that the old abusive relationship was back on again and they tried to smash it and undermine it and colour it. They were successful in portraying Pakistan as the harbinger of terror, advancing bogus theories that, for example, 9/11 was funded by the Islamic Republic. They even projected a powerful false conspiracy involving an assassination threat to US secretary of state Colin Powell where Ilyas Kashmiri was said to have plotted to kill him in Rawalpindi using one of the CIA's missing Stinger missiles.
By 2004, under US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, the US slowly began to repoint its relationship with India having acknowledged the rise of China. A series of military and security deals, that led to the civil nuclear pact, followed. By 2009, there was an attempt at high-level technical intelligence sharing (which initially struggled to get off the ground because of leaks in India) and the coming together of various agencies, United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the United States National Security Agency (NSA) inducting India into high-level groups. India began to centralise its technical eavesdropping facility and then bought into German spyware in ousting FinFisher that could access Blackberry and Android but could only pry into jail-broken Apple phones. It was used by spy agencies around the world to listen in to journalists and political dissidents, creating a scandal in which India was also accused. What replaced it, it seems, was Pegasus, supplied to in a country-to-country deal by Israel’s NSO, likely in 2018 and the Pegasus trials started running in 2019 which have exploded into the public arena with the leak of 2021.
But R&AW and the intel services have shown great initiatives on the Techint side since the East Pakistan war and especially during Kargil when Pervez Musharraf was eavesdropped exposing his plans. The intention and skill was there, but the full capabilities would come after 2009. By when these capabilities outpaced the legislature and, remember, oversight also is practically non-existent.
Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.
Did R&AW and IB officers agree on the need for a parliamentary oversight for intelligence agencies?
These agencies do not have a charter and have been used as a political football by different governments. Narasimha Rao government was one that used intelligence this way, and others too, especially Indira Gandhi. All the officers we met agreed there was a need for an oversight mechanism and a chartering that placed the intel services inside a constitutional framework.
As Edward Snowden pointed out after 9/11, there were unlimited budgets combined with a climate of fear that grew intelligence agencies, their facilities and technical skills, which far outpaced the law, but also pushed at the boundaries of what was moral, ethical and also legal. The Pegasus exposé shows this and ultimately our political leaders - who we vote in - should be held accountable. They are not beyond the law and intelligence is not a legal. You cannot allow intelligence agencies to outpace the legislature and the majority of people I spoke to within R&AW agreed. Only the ISI does not agree. They want to continue to operate in the dark.
How was your interaction with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval? Is he a mongoose or a cobra (reference from the book)?
He is action-oriented. He is also a storyteller and likes to make and control the narrative. What we are seeing in Kashmir is complete social media penetration, use of laws like AFSPA and the PSA, where the state of law is permanently upended, to mild and project these stories.
Doval also does not believe in talks without preconditions. He began to talk to Pakistan only when he had removed Kashmir from the table, and then a back channel started to work.
Doval has helmed a communal system, too, which has concentrated power in itself but also for its political masters and their agenda. The police, NIA, IB and R&AW have all been made to fit this objective. This set-up is undermining free thought and legitimate political action. It punishes all kinds of difference and resistance.
I think the positives are that India has created an agile intelligence infrastructure, which responds quickly, and is cleverly wooing foreign countries, thought leaders, power brokers, some of whom were not on their side but are friends today. Doval has wooed the Gulf countries and Saudi. He wants to see out each to China and Iran as well as Turkey. This has created a huge problem for outfits like the D company as extradition to India is now a real threat.
Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.
What are the shortcomings of this approach?
There is a lot of stage fog. It is hard to know what has happened and what has been allowed to happen for political reasons. Terror outfits are puppeteered and penetrated. Theories are put into practice - communal ones - by encouraging acts as well as detecting them. The British did this in Northern Ireland.
All intelligence organisations are becoming more chauvinistic, nationalistic but then there are others who also resist it. In India, we see an assertive Hindu agenda and those who have reason to fear it. Those who are being intimidated or jailed. The security organisations are a mirror of the societies they exist in. All our societies around the world are debating these traits and India is no exception. Popularism and authoritarianism vs liberal democracy. Personal freedom vs State controls. India has ended up more allied with an Orban-Trump-Netanyahu world than any other.
However, it will not permanently limit Indian democracy. India's cultural, regional, language divides are so profound that no Deep State will be able to control them for long.
You have named and quoted senior serving officers of the wing. Did you experience any push back after the book was published?
We cannot write a book and deliver it for approval. We do not work with any limitations other than time and money! So, what ISI and R&AW reads might surprise them and might antagonise some.
The idea was to share their views based on enormous experience so that we could see their thinking, their evolution and show some of the secret scaffolding that holds up their world. In a way, it’s like The Truman Show - that moment when he bumps his head on the roof of his world and finally understands how he has been playing a part. We wanted to define that roof and show some of those in the gallery.
We had to be responsible too - sensitive to the subject. So, even though we have transcripts for all our conversations, 90 per cent of what we learnt has not yet been published because it was either too sensitive or inappropriate or could cause hatred.
On the other hand, we were always open about our own beliefs with them. We went into every room as if we were being recorded.I have a thumb rule which I apply always: when you say something out loud then you should be prepared to hear it back.
This was Pakistan's first-ever win against India in a World Cup match of any format. It was also their maiden T20I win by 10 wickets over any opposition and the highest opening stand against India in the format. It was also India's first 10-wicket defeat in the format.
Rare honesty seen today on India's ZeeNews after Pakistan's "One-sided win" against India in T20 World Cup. Analysis by India's ex cricketers Mohammad Kaif & Harpal Bedi
Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence in the country, the company’s biggest market.
The documents include reports on how bots and fake accounts tied to the country’s ruling party and opposition figures were wreaking havoc on national elections. They also detail how a plan championed by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to focus on “meaningful social interactions,” or exchanges between friends and family, was leading to more misinformation in India, particularly during the pandemic.
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).
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.
- The Washington Post
Tek Fog: An App With BJP Footprints for Cyber Troops to Automate Hate, Manipulate Trends
The Wire investigates claims behind the use of ‘Tek Fog’, a highly sophisticated app used by online operatives to hijack major social media and encrypted messaging platforms and amplify right-wing propaganda to a domestic audience.
Over a series of tweets in April 2020, an anonymous Twitter account @Aarthisharma08 claiming to be a disgruntled employee of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Information Technology Cell (IT Cell) alleged the existence of a highly sophisticated and secret app called 'Tek Fog'. They claimed this app is used by political operatives affiliated with the ruling party to artificially inflate the popularity of the party, harass its critics and manipulate public perceptions at scale across major social media platforms.
The Twitter handle's mention of Tek Fog – a 'secret app' that they said was able to 'bypass reCaptcha codes' allowing fellow employees to 'auto-upload texts and hashtag Trends' – caught the attention of the authors of this piece, who reached out to the individual behind the account in order to investigate the existence of this hitherto unknown app.
Over subsequent conversations, the source claimed their daily job involved hijacking Twitter's 'trending' section with targeted hashtags, creating and managing multiple WhatsApp groups affiliated to the BJP and directing the online harassment of journalists critical of the BJP, all via the Tek Fog app.
The source went on to allege that they had decided to come forward after their supposed handler – Devang Dave, ex national social media and IT head, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (the youth-wing of the BJP) and current election manager for the party in Maharashtra – failed to deliver on a lucrative job offer promised in 2018 if the BJP was able to retain power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Over the next two years, a process of correspondence followed where the team at The Wire set out to test what could and could not be verified in the allegations made by the whistleblower, in addition to investigating the broader implications of the existence of such an app on the public discourse and the sanctity of the country's democratic processes.
Each of the allegations made by the whistleblower were subjected to a process of independent verification through which the team sought to learn more about the different functionalities of the app, the identity of the app creators, its users and the organisations enabling its use. Via encrypted emails and online chat rooms, the individual behind the Twitter account sent several screencasts and screenshots demonstrating the app's features. The source also shared payslip and bank statements to establish their identity (on this condition that this not be made public) and that of their employers.
The source did not provide The Wire direct access to the Tek Fog app. They claimed that this was due to the presence of various security restrictions – including the requirement of three one-time passwords (OTPs) to login to the app dashboard and the use of a local firewall that prevents access outside of the facility. They were, however, able to connect us via email to a BJYM official who provided code scripts that helped the team identify the various external tools and services connecting to the secure server hosting the Tek Fog app. The same script also led The Wire's team to one of the servers hosting the app, allowing us to independently verify that the app was functional at the time of publication and was not just a prototype.
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.
By Praveen Donthi
In 2013, I reported for The Caravan on India’s compromised national security beat. I noted in the piece that reporting on the “natsec” beat in India has always been a murky business, centred on a transactional relationship between the reporters and their sources in the security establishments. The glamorous nature of natsec reporting also ensures that they keep their sources completely anonymous, and are rarely questioned by editors. These reporters rely heavily on leaks, and the price for access is publishing information without much regard for its provenance. The beneficiaries of these dynamics are India’s security establishment and its government, which, on matters of national security, prefer to function without public scrutiny and accountability.
Swami, whose work I analysed in the 2013 report, fits neatly into this pattern. “If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles,” a 2010 report by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, a human-rights group, said.
Swami’s reports are based mostly on unnamed sources in intelligence agencies, and make big claims with recurring narrative patterns. I wrote in 2013 that his pieces often flaunted details that would have been difficult for any journalist to discover first-hand, all presented in neat, confident narratives. His work has since continued along similar lines. On 26 February, as the foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale announced that India had conducted an airstrike in Balakot, Firstpost had carried one of the first reports on the strikes. The article claimed that, “according to defence sources, IAF fighter jets not only targeted the JeM camp, but also Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen camps near Muzaffarabad.” These sources further claimed that there were six more targets “including Chakothi, Balakot and Muzaffarabad” and that five terror camps were also “targeted at Kangar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” The article was attributed to “FP staff.”
A week after the government claimed Indian forces had carried out surgical strikes on terror-training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 29 September 2016, Swami wrote a story for The Indian Express, where he was Strategic and International Affairs editor at the time. The story claimed to include “information which the governments of India and Pakistan have not made public.” The article, however, only confirmed India’s claims of the strikes. Swami claimed in the report that he sent questions to five people, “using a commercially available encrypted chat system,” who visited the villages that were apparently attacked during the strikes and spoke to the residents. Swami described them as “eyewitnesses.”
One of the stories Firstpost published after the recent fracas was by Francesca Marino, an Italian journalist. Marino’s story claimed that 35 people were killed in the strikes and mentioned that “the eyewitnesses were contacted by this correspondent using encrypted communication.”
Swami’s 2016 Indian Express story included this bit about a vengeful sentiment among the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, following the surgical strikes:
Friday prayers at a Lashkar-affiliated mosque in Chalhana, another eyewitness said, ended with a cleric vowing to avenge the deaths of the men killed the previous day. “The Lashkar men gathered there were blaming the Pak Army for failing to defend the border”, he said in one message, “and saying they would soon give India an answer it would never forget”.
He authored a Firstpost story on 1 March this year, which spoke of a similar sentiment among the leadership of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose training camp is believed to be target of India’s recent Balakot strike:
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.
The invasion of Ukraine (106th) by Russia (155th) at the end of February reflects this process, as the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war. China (175th), one of the world’s most repressive autocratic regimes, uses its legislative arsenal to confine its population and cut it off from the rest of the world, especially the population of Hong Kong (148th), which has plummeted in the Index. Confrontation between “blocs” is growing, as seen between nationalist Narendra Modi’s India (150th) and Pakistan (157th). The lack of press freedom in the Middle East continues to impact the conflict between Israel (86th), Palestine (170th) and the Arab states.
Media polarisation is feeding and reinforcing internal social divisions in democratic societies such as the United States (42nd), despite president Joe Biden’s election. The increase in social and political tension is being fuelled by social media and new opinion media, especially in France (26th). The suppression of independent media is contributing to a sharp polarisation in “illiberal democracies” such as Poland (66th), where the authorities have consolidated their control over public broadcasting and their strategy of “re-Polonising” the privately-owned media.
NEW DELHI, May 4 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google has hired a new public policy head in India, Archana Gulati, who previously worked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's federal think-tank and the country's antitrust watchdog, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
A number of Indian government officials have been hired by Big Tech companies which are battling tighter data and privacy regulation, as well as competition law scrutiny, under Modi's federal government.
Gulati is a long-term Indian government employee, having worked until March 2021 as a joint secretary for digital communications at Modi's federal think tank, Niti Aayog, a body that is critical to government's policy making across sectors.
Before that, between 2014 and 2016, she worked as a senior official at India's antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India, according to her LinkedIn profile.
A Google India spokesperson confirmed the development to Reuters, but did not elaborate. Gulati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The source declined to be named as the hiring decision was not public.
India's antitrust watchdog is currently looking into Google's business conduct in the market of smart TVs, its Android operating system as well as its in-app payments system.
Last year, Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) hired Rajiv Aggarwal - who spent years working in India's federal and state governments - as its head of policy.
Another former Indian antitrust and federal government official, Anand Jha, in 2019 joined Walmart (WMT.N) as India public policy officer. He currently manages government relations for Blackstone in India.
A LONDON court has fined the company, which has the licence to broadcast Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV in the UK, £37,500 for defaming a British businessman who was called a “ISI stooge” on the news show.
The High Court Of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division underlined that “the programme contained no evidence whatsoever to support its assertions” while holding that the allegations were “likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant”.
The claimant, Aneel Mussarat, a British businessman of Pakistani origin, was referred to as an “ISI stooge” on the show on July 22, 2020. His photograph was also broadcast along with captions that read: “Should Bollywood declare any links to pro-Pakistan, pro-terror, anti-India individuals and groups?” and “Should Bollywood renounce any links with Pakistanis who take a pro-terrorist line?”
“The programme contained serious allegations against the Claimant, who was identified by both his image and his name,” the court ruling said.
Worldview Media Network Ltd, a registered company in the UK which holds a licence with Ofcom to broadcast Republic Bharat did not participate in the legal proceedings.
“The Defendant is neither present nor represented and I have received no representations on its behalf. I have been assisted by the submissions, both written and oral, of Mr William McCormick QC who appears on behalf of the Claimant,” the order read.
“With regard to the claim for damages, I have no hesitation in concluding that the Claimant would be entitled to an award substantially in excess of the maximum permissible under 9(1)(c) but his decision to limit his claim is pragmatic in the light of the Defendant’s failure to engage and the dim prospects of recovering any of the damages awarded,” the ruling said.
The court relied on precedents that have held that any allegation of terrorism is to be regarded as extremely serious and highly damaging allowing awards of general damages well into six figures.
In December 2020, the British broadcasting regulator has also fined the company £20,000 for a debate on the channel that it found contravened the code against “hate speech”.
Published on Sep 08, 2022 01:43 PM IST
A Congressional notification stated that Pakistan has requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements.
As a notification to the US Congress, the State Department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale of F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad's capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on Wednesday.
First major security assistance to Pakistan after Trump ceased it in 2018
This is the first major security assistance to Pakistan after Trump in 2018 had announced to stop all defense and security assistance to Pakistan alleging that Islamabad was not a partner in its fight against terrorism.
“Pakistan is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms,” said a State Department spokesperson.
“This will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet as well as support American foreign policy and national security objectives by allowing interoperability in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations,” said the Pentagon’sDefense Security Cooperation Agency in a note.
The Government of Pakistan has requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements. Included are U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics services for follow-on support of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet to include:
Participation in F-16 Aircraft Structural Integrity Program
Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Program
International Engine Management Program
Engine Component Improvement Program, and other technical coordination groups
Aircraft and engine hardware and software modifications and support
Aircraft and engine spare repair/return parts
Accessories and support equipment
Classified and unclassified software and software support
Publications, manuals, and technical documentation
Precision measurement, calibration, lab equipment, and technical support services
Studies and surveys
Other related elements of aircraft maintenance and program support.
The proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions.
The estimated total cost is $450 million.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with U.S. and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.
The proposed sale will continue the sustainment of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet, which greatly improves Pakistan’s ability to support counterterrorism operations through its robust air-to-ground capability. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Corporation, Fort Worth, TX. There are no known offsets proposed in conjunction with this sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Pakistan.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law. The description and dollar value is for the highest estimated quantity and dollar value based on initial requirements. Actual dollar value will be lower depending on final requirements, budget authority, and signed sales agreement(s), if and when concluded.
All questions regarding this proposed Foreign Military Sale should be directed to the State Department's Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, email@example.com.
According to IAF Veteran Squadron Leader (retd) Vijainder Thakur, “It is likely that the maintenance support package provided by the US will include upgrades that allow PAF F-16s to carry more advanced weapons and sensors. While I do not believe that the package would significantly alter the balance of power, it will most certainly allow the PAF to maintain its deterrence capability against the IAF.”
There has also been an overarching debate regarding F-16s vs. Rafales in the region. The acquisition of Rafales was seen in Pakistan as an attempt to challenge the F-16’s might and deter the PAF.
General (Air Commodore) Kizer Tufar (Kaiser Tufail), a Pakistani veteran (fighter pilot), had said, “IAF aircraft cannot be compared with the combination used by the Pakistani Air Force: F-16 and AIM-120 missiles. The Indian Air Force is aware of these restrictions, so they decided to place an order to buy the Rafale from France.”
Rafale fighter jet is a twin-engine, 4.5th generation fighter aircraft that can operate from ground bases and aircraft carriers. On the other hand, the US-based Lockheed Martin developed F-16, a fourth-generation, single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft. The two aircraft are almost similar regarding the dimension of length.
Given that they can carry more armaments than the F-16s, the Rafales would have an advantage in an encounter between the two. However, the F-16s have a slight advantage over the Rafales regarding striking power. Rafales only have a range of 3700 kilometers compared to the F-16s’ 4220 kilometers.
“The US has always relied on Pakistan due to its strategic location as it is the gateway to Afghanistan or the Middle East and Central Asian republics. Its importance as a launch pad can’t be reduced – which Pakistan also is equally aware of. And, in the US, a strong pro-Pakistan lobby benefits due to various deals and aid to Pakistan – they get paid – by corrupt Pakistani officials and Generals.
The present F-16 deal is also to be looked at from that angle. Overall it will not have much impact on IAF except for irritant value. Numerically and qualitatively, IAF is much better placed,” Air Vice Marshal Pranay Sinha (retd) told EurAsian Times.
The US decision comes when arms sales worldwide are booming owing to newer threat perceptions. Western officials have debated how to wean India off its dependence on Russian armament. However, India has refused to join the West in isolating Russia.
Some experts contend that the US decision is based on a business requirement. According to Group Captain Johnson Chacko, KC (retd), “Arms transactions worldwide are business oriented. Money matters. The US has supplied F-16s to Pakistan, so it is honor bound to maintain them.
In addition, the arms industry gets money while Pakistan holds the debt. We cannot reduce it to the F16 vs. Rafale debate, as the men behind the machines matter.
We demonstrated that against USAF in the first COPE India exercise held at Gwalior, where USAF F-15s were overwhelmed by what they felt was inferior Russian aircraft flown by IAF.”
It is pertinent to mention that the Indian Air Force has been undertaking a rapid modernization drive. It is dominated by Russian heavy-duty fighters like the Su-30MKI and MiG-29s, combat-hardened Mirage 2000s and Jaguars, and Light Aircraft like the Tejas, besides the cutting-edge Rafale fighters.
A Chinese J-10C. (via Twitter)
The Pakistan Air Force, on the other hand, is dominated by the F-16s, the brand-new J-10Cs, the JF-17, and Mirages, among others.
Before the J-10C fighters were transferred to Pakistan by China earlier this year, military analysts asserted that the purchase underlined the need to counter India’s Rafale aircraft and provide a strong deterrent against the Indian Air Force.
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.
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.
Pro-Indian Army Covert Influence Operation on
Shelby Grossman, Emily Tianshi, David Thiel, and Renée DiResta
Stanford Internet Observatory
September 21, 2022
June 6, 2019 Twitter suspends Chinar Corps account
June 7, 2019 Twitter reinstates Chinar Corps account
January 28, 2022 Facebook Page and Instagram account for
Chinar Corps suspended
January 31, 2022 Oldest visible Chinar Corps tweet, despite
account created in 2017
February 9 and/or 10, 2022 Facebook Page and Instagram account for
Chinar Corps reinstated
March 29, 2022 Last visible tweet from Twitter takedown
There were two accounts in the network that existed to target reporters, activists,
and politicians in this way. The accounts had similar usernames and tweets:
@KashmirTraitors (created in July 2020, with a bio that said “Busting fake news,
bringing you the real truth of Kashmir”), and @KashmirTraitor1 (created in
January 2022, with a bio that said “Exposing the traitors who call them #Kashmiri
but are working towards destroying #Kashmiriyat....!!!!!”, see Figure 6 on the
following page). The @KashmirTraitors bio linked to a YouTube channel, Traitors
of Kashmir, created in 2014. The Twitter accounts and YouTube channel targeted
specific individuals, focusing on what the account deemed “anti-India” journalists,
calling reporters “#whitecollarterrorist,” for example; saying that they were
working to corrupt the minds of Kashmiris; and accusing them of taking money
from Pakistan. The accounts also targeted activists. One @KashmirTraitor1
thread, for example, targeted the activist and author Pieter Friedrich (see Figure 7
on page 8).
These two Kashmir Traitor accounts also targeted the Pakistani government. One
@KashmirTraitors tweet said:
“#ISPR has raised an #astonishing network of 4000-strong highly
qualified #Information Warfare specialists during the past decade
through a carefully crafted internship program that is directly run by
ISPR stands for Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media
arm. ISI stands for Inter-Services Intelligence, a Pakistani intelligence agency.
The tweet was accompanied by the image shown in Figure 8 on page 8.
Almost 400 tweets from @KashmirTraitors received at least 500 likes. Its most
popular tweet targeted journalist Fahad Shah, who has been imprisoned since
March 2022. The tweet, from January 17, 2021, said:
“#FahadShah unveiled #thread (1/n) Fahad is the founder and editor
of the #Kashmir Walla magazine and claims himself an freelance
journalist on the other hand rigorously publishes content on anti-
#India sentiments. Mr #Fahad how can you call yourself independent
The tweet got 2,440 likes. In calling out particular individuals, @KashmirTraitors
would sometimes tag the official Chinar Corps account, @ChinarcorpsIA, to draw
their attention to a thread.
The U.S. decision to deliver advanced versions of the F-16 as well as targeting and electronic warfare equipment to Pakistan did not come without strings. And this is where the Pakistan model may hold the key to resolving the impasse over Turkey and the F-35. When it approved the sale of advanced F-16s to Pakistan and the upgrade of older models, the United States also insisted on an unprecedented level of oversight of the program. In order to protect the technology it was exporting, Washington required Islamabad to accept and pay for the deployment of a U.S. technical security team at the Shahbaz and Mushaf air force bases — the two locations where the advanced F-16s were to be deployed.
One of the authors of this article served in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan at the time and was involved in this program, making several visits to Pakistani F-16 bases to ensure the required security upgrades were completed before the aircraft were deployed there. Each technical security team is made up of four to five U.S. Air Force personnel and some 30 contractors who keep a round-the-clock watch on Pakistan’s advanced F-16s. In total, Pakistan has around 85 F-16s, 66 of which are older Block 15 aircraft and 19 of which are the more modern Block 52. Most of the Block 15 aircraft have received the mid-life upgrade, meaning they are also subject to technical security team monitoring. The mission of the teams is to ensure that the Pakistan Air Force uses its F-16s as intended, does not modify them or the weapons they carry, and does not share the technology with unauthorized parties. In Pakistan’s case, the latter issue is especially salient, because the air force also flies the JF-17 fighter, which it jointly manufactures with China. On bases where advanced F-16s are present, the United States requires that Pakistan separate them from other aircraft and strictly limit access to the area where they are located.
Despite its behavior in other areas, Pakistan has been a steady partner in its F-16 program. The Pakistan Air Force uses its F-16s extensively to attack militants in its tribal areas and shares cockpit footage of these operations with the United States (which one of the authors was able to view while stationed in Pakistan). The presence of technical security teams allows the United States to monitor how Pakistan uses these jets, since their weapons load is configured differently for air-to-ground and air-to-air operations. Of course, in a national emergency, even continuous monitoring can’t prevent the Pakistan Air Force from using its F-16s in ways the United States doesn’t like. For example, in February 2019 India claimed a Pakistani F-16 shot down one of its jets in a skirmish over the border between the two. Pakistan denies this, claiming a Pakistan Air Force JF-17 downed the Indian plane. The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about the incident, but did not directly accuse Pakistan of using its F-16s against India. Instead, it admonished Islamabad for moving some of its F-16s to bases not approved by the United States, indicating that both sides would prefer to let the issue rest. This incident highlights a limitation on all U.S. oversight of military equipment it sells to foreign partners, not just Pakistan. When national survival appears to be at stake, U.S. partners will not be deterred by admonitions to use weapons only for certain missions or against certain threats. This needs to be considered early in the process, before an export license is issued.
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.”
Nadav Lapid, chair of the International film festival India, spoke out against work that critics say is anti-Muslim propaganda
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the film festival, Lapid said he and other jury members had been “shocked and disturbed” that the film had been given a platform. The Kashmir Files, said Lapid, was “a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.
Lapid, who has taken an anti-establishment stance against rightwing elements in his home of Israel, is not alone in expressing concern over The Kashmir Files. Cinemagoers have started anti-Muslim chants at screenings and it has been accused of stirring up communal violence. In May, Singapore banned the film over its “potential to cause enmity between different communities”.
Vivek Agnihotri, the film’s director, said on Monday that “terror supporters and genocide deniers can never silence me”.
He added: “I challenge all the intellectuals in this world and this great film-maker from Israel to find one frame, one dialogue or an event in The Kashmir Files that is not true.”
A row has erupted in India after an Israeli director described a controversial film about Kashmir as propaganda and a “vulgar movie”, prompting the Israeli ambassador to issue an apology.
Nadav Lapid, who was chair of this year’s panel of the international film festival of India (IFFI), spoke out against the inclusion of The Kashmir Files at the event.
The film, released in March to popular box office success, is largely set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when attacks and threats by militants led to most Kashmiri Hindus fleeing from the region, where the majority of the population are Muslim.
Many film critics, Kashmiri Muslims and others, have described it as propaganda that inflames hatred against Muslims and distorts events to suit an anti-Muslim agenda.
However, the film has received a ringing endorsement from the highest levels of the Indian government, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), who have also been accused of pursuing an anti-Muslim agenda. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, has praised the film, congratulating its makers for having “the guts to portray the truth” and it was the second highest-grossing film in India this year.
Lapid said his comments were made in the spirit of “critical discussion, which is essential for art and life”, adding he was sure they could be accepted graciously by the festival and audience as such. But his critique caused outrage.
Amit Malviya, a senior BJP leader, compared his remarks to denial of the Holocaust. “For the longest time, people even denied the Holocaust and called Schindler’s List propaganda, just like some are doing to Kashmir Files,” he said.
In Goa, where the festival took place, a complaint was filed to police against Lapid, accusing him of “instigating enmity between groups”.
Fellow jurors at the film festival, which is sponsored by the Indian government, quickly distanced themselves from his comments, stating that they reflected his opinion and not that of the panel. Film-maker Sudipto Sen, who was on the panel, said: “We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film.”
Some of the harshest criticism came from Israel’s ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, who told Lapid he should be “ashamed” of his comments and that it was “insensitive and presumptuous” to speak on a subject that has political and religious ramifications in India. Gilon said he “unequivocally condemned” the statements.
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.
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.
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.
Two engineers in India chose to leave their lucrative careers and form a media company to fight against the dangerous spread of misinformation. Despite facing abuses and threats, and even arrest and imprisonment, Mohamed Zubair and Pratik Sinha have carried on debunking all forms of misinformation, especially politically motivated misinformation.
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?
Pakistan will respond with "Operation Swift Retort" if Modi and his fellow Islamophobes are foolish enough to attack Pakistan again.
Listen to your Indian Professor Ashok Swain who tweeted this today:
Never let a regime fool you in the name of nationalism - If you do it once, you have to keep doing it. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-kashmir-pakistan-airstrike-insi-idUSKCN1QN00V
Satellite images show buildings still standing at Indian bombing site
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who has 15 years’ experience in analyzing satellite images of weapons sites and systems, confirmed that the high-resolution satellite picture showed the structures in question.
“The high-resolution images don’t show any evidence of bomb damage,” he said. Lewis viewed three other high-resolution Planet Labs pictures of the site taken within hours of the image provided to Reuters.
The Indian government has not publicly disclosed what weapons were used in the strike.
Government sources told Reuters last week that 12 Mirage 2000 jets carrying 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs) bombs carried out the attack. On Tuesday, a defense official said the aircraft used the 2,000-lb Israeli-made SPICE 2000 glide bomb in the strike.
A warhead of that size is meant to destroy hardened targets such as concrete shelters.
Lewis and Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation studies who also analyses satellite images, said weapons that large would have caused obvious damage to the structures visible in the picture.
We’ve lately been talking about aircraft which have gone for combat several times. Now we’ve been thinking of some statistics of various fighter aircraft in use. Below you can find the details – but first of all we would like to show you an overview, created by Wojtek Korsak, based on this article. Thanks for that Wojtek. Click enlarge. If it is still to small: Press and hold Ctrl and scroll up with your mouse.
The Format is:
[Name of aircraft] Air-to-air kills – Air-to-air losses – Losses to ground fire
[Name of conflict aircraft was used in]
[Nation that used aircraft in said conflict]
Air-to-air kills – Air-to-air losses – Losses to ground fire
Aircraft which were destroyed on the ground are not included in this analysis, because any plane can get destroyed on the ground no matter how good it or its pilot is.
F-16 Falcon 76-1-5
Gulf War (USA) 0-0-3
No-Fly Zones (USA) 2-0-0
Bosnia (USA) 4-0-1
Kosovo (USA) 1-0-1
Kosovo (Netherlands) 1-0-0
Kosovo (Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Turkey) 0-0-0
Afghanistan (USA, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway) 0-0-0
Iraq (USA) 0-0-0
Syrian border clashes 1979-1986 (Israel) 6-0-0
Operation Opera (Israel) 0-0-0
Lebanon War (1982) (Israel) 44-0-0
Lebanon War (2006) (Israel) 3-0-0
Intifada (2000-present) (Israel) 0-0-0
Soviet-Afghan War (Pakistan) 10-0-0
Border clashes (Pakistan) 1-0-0
Kargil War (Pakistan) 0-0-0
Northwest border wars (Pakistan) 0-0-0
Aegean Sea clashes (Turkey) 1-1-0
Venezuelan Coup 1992 (Venezuela) 3-0-0