Misinformation Warfare – #CivilWarinPakistan trends with 61% tweets coming from India; New Delhi contributes the highest number

Islamabad, 18 April 2021:  A peek into the analytics of a trending hashtag falsely proclaiming Civil War in Pakistan reveals that 61% of the tweets contributing to the hashtag are coming from India. Contributing the highest number of tweets to the trend is New Delhi, generating 10% of the total volume of tweets. 

61% tweets contributing to the trend coming from India, 9% from US, UAE, Bangladesh and UK

At the time of publication of this story, a total of 84,000 tweets, replies, and retweets had been generated on this hashtag with 6688 tweets per hour being generated at the peak of the trend. As many as 85% of the tweets in the hashtags are retweets, a telling sign of artificial and organised amplification of any trend.  Indian cities of Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Pune and Jaipur are also among the top ten cities contributing to the hashtag.

New Delhi & Mumbai among the top three cities contributing to the trend spreading disinformation

The most replied, retweeted and influential accounts contributing to the false hashtag are all India based and include accounts with a public history of spreading anti Pakistan propaganda. One of these accounts is of Major Gaurav Arya, a twitter account known for consistently tweeting anti Pakistan propaganda.  Another Indian account, V K Sharma is also one of the top influencers of the trend.  

Indian accounts leading the spread of disinformation against Pakistan.

The accounts spreading misinformation about a non existent civil war are also contributing to hashtags #TLPNationWideProtest and #Stop_Gov_terrorism 


India’s history of spreading misinformation 

India’s use of misinformation as a tool for spreading propaganda against Pakistan is well documented. In October 2020, Indian twitter accounts circulated claims of civil war in Karachi, Pakistan. The story was also carried by multiple Indian news websites despite the fact that there was no truth to the claims.  The current hashtag appears to be following a similar trend, with both Indian twitter accounts and Indian websites showing as top influencers of the trend. One of the most tweeted links is from a news network, that brands itself as an “India Focused, International Strategic News portal”. The story from this website, that is the second most widely shared link in the hashtag falsely claims that “civil war has erupted in Pakistan for several days”. The article, not being linked here so as not to amplify the spread of disinformation, goes on to make various other outlandish and totally baseless claims about the burning of “cities after cities” and paints a false picture of a war torn nation.

However, given the history and scale of of India’s disinformation operation, the outlandish claims are not surprising.


The disinformation warfare

In December 2019, EU DisInfo Lab, a European group had uncovered the scale of Indian misinformation and propaganda at a global scale. The Lab’s report titled Indian Chronicles talks of the disinformation campaign from India as “a massive operation targeting international institutions and serving Indian interests – using 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.  This investigation uncovered Indian propagandists operating through a group of obscure groups had been coordinating demonstrations and social media campaigns against Pakistan every year during UN Human Rights Council sessions and used the HRC’s live broadcast’s hashtag to spread disinformation against Pakistan.  

The report also found 750+ fake media outlets, covering 119 countries and 550+ domain names that were being used by Indian propagandists to spread anti-Pakistan content from unusual press agencies and amplify material shared by politicians and obscure think tanks that supported Indian geopolitical interests against Pakistan

Asad Baig is an Islamabad-based journalist. He is the founder and the executive director of Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan's leading media development organisation. He's also the CEO of the Media Lab, country's first and only incubator and accelerator for digital media startups. He tweets at @asadbeyg.

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