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.
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.
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.