Indian network peddling propaganda against Sikhs exposed
Fake profiles of Sikh influencers were used to target farmer protests and Khalistan movement
LONDON – A probe carried out by a UK-based organization has debunked fake social media accounts of people impersonating Sikhs to discredit the protest movement in India, and label Sikh interests as ‘extremists’.
Report of BBC quoting the research by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) exposed an Indian based network of fake accounts involved in promoting Indian nationalism
The network used accounts across all social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote Hindutva, a predominant form of Hindu nationalism, and Modi-led government narratives.
Hundreds of accounts were found which have now been suspended, according to the author of the research and CIR’s director of investigation. The investigations team used tracked the campaign using Twitter API, hashtags, and visualised data.
Report quoting the author said the aim of the propaganda was to change perceptions on key issues around Sikh independence, human rights, and values as well as the Khalistan movement.
The accounts claimed to be ‘real Sikhs’ and ‘proud Indians’ and used profile pictures stolen from celebrities’ social media accounts. The accounts were posting the same content on multiple social media platforms.
Fake accounts on social media platforms promoted narratives arguing that ‘real’ Sikhs support the Indian government and Indian nationalism, while it also framed independence as ‘extremism or terrorism’.
The probe author termed the propaganda as “an effort to distort perceptions and discredit the push for Sikh independence, label Sikh political interests as extremist, stoke cultural tensions within India and international communities, and promote Indian government content.
The network’s also propelled to the rhetoric to counter and expose the Khalistani movement for Sikh independence to “save India”.
Fake social media accounts impersonating Sikh influencers used fake pictures, same hashtags, and even post similar kinds of content, and had nearly a similar number of followers. #RealSikhAgainstKhalistanis, #Khalistanis, and #SikhRejectKhalistan were the hashtags used by accounts.
The fake Indian network promoted the narrative that the Khalistani movement was ‘trying to hijack the farmers’ protest’, and that the movement was about ‘terrorism’. It was also revealed that the content produced by these accounts was endorsed by a number of verified accounts.
The report added that such tactics are applied routinely by the Indian ruling party to influence social media users.
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