Two of 265 India-Linked Anti-Pakistan Fake News Sites Located in Pakistan

Researchers at Europe's Disinfo Lab have uncovered a network of 265 online news sites in 65 countries, including Pakistan, using the names and brands of defunct newspapers from the 20th century to push anti-Pakistan media coverage inside the regular news cycle. Two of these sites are located in Pakistani cities of Karachi and Lahore, according to Disinfo Lab's report. They are linked to social media accounts.  These two sites were spewing disinformation on Pakistan using the names of the long defunct Socialist Weekly (Karachi) and Khalsa Akhbar (Lahore), according to Pakistani researchers.  The real Karachi-based Urdu language Socialist Weekly and Lahore-based Punjabi language Khalsa Akhbar ceased publishing decades ago, long before the advent of online publishing.

Two of 265 Anti-Pakistan Websites in Pakistan. Source: EU Disinfo Lab

The fake news sites were aimed at reinforcing the legitimacy of anti-Pakistan NGOs by providing linkable press materials to reinforce an anti-Pakistan agenda. Two of these anti-Pakistan NGOs named by Disinfo Lab are European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), and Pakistani Women’s Human Rights Organization.

Anti-Pakistan Fake News Network Managed By Indians

EU DisinfoLab found that this anti-Pakistan campaign is managed by Indian stakeholders, with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the Srivastava Group. they also discovered that the IP address of the Srivastava Group is also home to the obscure online media “New Delhi Times” and the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which are all based at the same address in New Delhi, India.

Here are some of EU Disinfo Lab findings from these anti-Pakistan websites:

1. Most of them are named after an extinct local newspaper or spoof real media outlets.

2. They republish content from several news agencies (KCNA, Voice of America, Interfax).

3. Coverage of the same Indian-related demonstrations and events;

4. Republications of anti-Pakistan content from the described Indian network (including EP Today, 4NewsAgency, Times Of Geneva, New Delhi Times).

5. Most websites have a Twitter account as well.

But why have they created these fake media outlets? Disinfo Lab's analysis of the content and how it is shared found several ostensible reason for it:

1. Influence international institutions and elected representatives with coverage of specific events and demonstrations.

2. Provide NGOs with useful press material to reinforce their credibility and thus be impactful.

3. Add several layers of media outlets that quote and republish one another, making it harder for the reader to trace the manipulation, and in turn (sometimes) offer a “mirage” of international support.

4. Influence public perceptions on Pakistan by multiplying iterations of the same content available on search engines.

EU Dininfo Lab has shown that India's disinformation campaign goes well beyond planted stories in Indian media; it extends across 65 countries, including Pakistan, with a network of 265 online news sites. It appears that Indian intelligence agencies have stepped up their 5th generation warfare against Pakistan.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on December 1, 2019 at 7:44pm

We Can Make Any Message We Want Go Viral, Real or Fake, says #Modi’s crony #AmitShah . #BJP president Amit Shah boasted how the party workers were capable of spreading any message among people, regardless of whether it is ‘true or false’. #India #Hindutva

https://www.thequint.com/news/politics/amit-shah-real-fake-can-make...

Addressing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) social media volunteers in Kota, Rajasthan, BJP president Amit Shah boasted how the party workers were capable of spreading any message among people, regardless of whether it is ‘true or false’.

Boasting about the party’s WhatsApp group with over 32 lakh people, Shah recounted how a party worker sent out a fake message claiming Akhilesh Yadav had slapped father Mulayam Yadav. “There was no truth to this message, but it went viral,” he said, adding the caveat that he didn’t think this was the right approach, but reiterating that the party workers are “capable of delivering any message to the public.”

You can fast forward the video to 26:30 to listen to Shah’s exact words–

Hum jo chaahein woh sandesh janta tak pahuncha saktey hain, chaahe khatta ho ya meetha ho, sacha ho ya jhoota ho. Yeh kaam kar sakte hain, magar woh is liye ho paaya, hum 32 lakh WhatsApp ka ek group bana ke khade the. Tab jaakar yeh phelne ka kaam hua (We can spread any message we want, whether it is true false. We were able to do it because we have 32 lakh people on our WhatsApp group. This is how we make things go viral.)

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 12, 2019 at 8:09am

Two #Indian citizens living in #Germany have been found guilty of spying on #Kashmiris and #Sikhs for #India's intelligence agency #RAW. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva https://p.dw.com/p/3UfRU?maca=en-Twitter-sharing Germany: Indian couple convicted of spying for Delhi

A German court on Thursday convicted an Indian married couple of spying on Kashmiri and Sikh groups in Germany on behalf of India's foreign intelligence service.

The court in Frankfurt found Manmohan S., 50, and his wife, Kanwal Jit K., 51, guilty of handing information on such groups to India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Their last names are not given in accordance with German privacy laws.

Manmohan S. was handed a one-and-a-half-year suspended jail sentence for illegal espionage activities, while Kanwal Jit K. received a fine equivalent to 180 days of income for aiding and abetting such activities.

Separatism fears

The husband's espionage activities are said to have begun in January 2015, with his wife joining him in collecting intelligence from July 2017. The couple are reported to have received €7,200 ($7,974) from RAW for their services.

During the trial, the two eventually confessed to regular meetings with a RAW handling officer to hand over information.

Delhi has in the past expressed concern that Sikhs, particularly those living in the diaspora could harbor hostility to the Indian state. It is also worried that the Kashmiri separatist movement could be strengthened from abroad.

Germany has the third largest community of Sikhs in Europe after Britain and Italy, according to the German religious rights group REMID, with between 10,000 and 20,000 adherents of the religion living in the country.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 19, 2020 at 8:34am

Farewell to #Pakistan's #socialmedia celebrity Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor
@peaceforchange. He sought to control the #narrative for the world's 6th largest army earning him grudging praise from his #Indian army counterpart Retd Gen Rajesh Pant. #warfare


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51148762#

It is not often a military spokesperson doubles as a national celebrity, about whom internet memes are made and whose name trends on Twitter.

But Pakistan's Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor is one such individual. As he leaves his post after three headline-grabbing years, praise and criticism have poured in in equal measure.

The transfer was expected but it came days after an unseemly social media spat with TV anchor Sana Bucha, which raised eyebrows about his conduct.

Skip Twitter post by @peaceforchange

Asif Ghafoor

@peaceforchange
Thanks for your love & support. Stay strong, continue doing your bit for Pakistan.Stay blessed
آپکی محبت اورحمایت کاشکریہ۔ مضبوط رہتے ہوۓ پاکستان کے لئے اپنا کام جاری رکھیں۔ Stay blessed.

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Syed Talat Hussain

@TalatHussain12
Removal of Gen Asif Ghafoor as DGISPR is an important step to refashion the Army’s image in COAS Bajwa’s second term. The x DG had turned ISPR into Ghafoor-PR with his frivolous pursuits, outlandish ideas, and obsessive self projection.

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His successor will find the departing director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) quite an act to follow. Gen Ghafoor's late-night musings on Twitter provided plenty of controversy and copious fodder for Pakistan's twitterati.

Subjects for discussion could appear random - he irked India by praising Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone for attending anti-government protests in Delhi. But he could just as easily post about burn ointment, butchers or stray dogs.

Combative tweets from his personal account in the past few days showed how he sought to control the narrative for the world's sixth largest army.

The general frequently sparred with retired Indian military officials or journalists on Twitter; at other times he would "troll" Pakistani journalists and individuals who criticised the country's military.

Earlier this week he locked horns with Sana Bucha after she tweeted criticising the military. Ms Bucha retaliated by reminding him "to show some class" but that was met with a thinly veiled warning that she should "make a choice".

Skip Twitter post by @sanabucha

Sana Bucha

@sanabucha
اپنے عہدے اور ادارے ، دونوں کا پاس رکھنے کے لئے شکریہ۔ @peaceforchange �� https://twitter.com/peaceforchange/status/1216658786007572481

Asif Ghafoor

@peaceforchange
Replying to @sanabucha
Not without a reason. I never initiated anything. Please see your unethical expressions which provoked response from me & fellow Pakistanis. I am deleting my yesterday’s responses only respecting journalistic ethos. You can make your choice for now & future. It’s two to tango.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on January 27, 2020 at 8:42am

Yet another #socialmedia lie shared by #Modi's #Hindutva #Bhakts: Video of "failed" rocket test in #Pakistan! It is FALSE!! The video is in fact from #Russia, not Pakistan. #India #Propaganda https://www.hindustantimes.com/it-s-viral/fact-check-does-viral-vid...

A dramatic video of a rocket bursting into flames moments after being launched is going viral on social media. People are sharing the clip with the claim that it shows an unsuccessful launch of Pakistan’s surface to surface short range ballistic missile Ghaznavi. The claim is false.

Many are sharing the same video with the exact caption on both Twitter and Facebook. Written in Hindi, the caption when translated reads, “13th test launch of Pakistan’s Ghaznavi missile failed. The missile that claims reaching the range of 300 kms fell down like burnt paper just at 36 kms.”

A search of the keyframes of the video revealed multiple links and most of them are shared back in 2013. One of the links, with the same video, was shared by the BBC. Turns out, the failed rocket test took place in Russia in 2013. It’s an unmanned Russian Proton-M rocket which crashed and burned after being launched at the Russian Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan. The same video reporting the incident was also shared on YouTube by The Telegraph.

Further, Inter Services Public Relations Directorate of Pakistan Armed Forces took to YouTube on January 23, 2020, to share a video of successful launch of Ghaznavi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 7, 2020 at 8:43pm

#India's Foolish Editor Aarti Tikoo Singh's Makes Up #FakeNews Based on Satirical Report about #ImranKhan of #Pakistan https://tribune.com.pk/story/2216386/1-tribune-fact-check-pm-imran-...

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1258601641508511744?s=20

The Indian media thought they had pounced upon a ‘glaring error’ made by Prime Minister Imran Khan and went as far as rehashing a satirical piece to try to put words in his mouth.

The Pakistani premier is no stranger to a gaffe from time to time, however, in this case media outlets from neighbouring India were in for a ‘rude awakening’.

The Dependent, a satirical Pakistani website, published a piece here poking fun at PM Imran.

The article outlines how PM Imran addressed a press conference attended by leading journalists in which he claimed that the government had reached the ‘epidemiological holy grail’ of flattening the Covid-19 curve in the country.`

The curve refers to the projected number of new cases of the virus, that has brought the entire world to a standstill, over a period of time.

The article goes on to detail how the prime minister rails on about the ‘achievement’ before being told by one of his aides that he has been reading the chart upside down all along.

It soon began doing the rounds on social media and was picked up by Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh, who literally took it at face value and was then published with her by-line for Indian news outlet Indo-Asian News Service.

Television personality and seasoned journalist Zarar Khuhro, also tweeted how the Indian media got it wrong and had unintentionally provided some comic relief in the process.

The article was also widely shared on Indian Twitter, with users of the micro-blogging site desperately attempting to troll PM Imran for his supposed mistake.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 10, 2020 at 7:17am

#Indian cyber firm spied on #politicians, #investors worldwide. BellTroX InfoTech Services targeted #government officials in #Europe, gambling tycoons in #Bahamas, and top investors in #US, including private equity giant KKR and short seller Muddy Waters.https://reut.rs/2XOt6HX

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A little-known Indian IT firm offered its hacking services to help clients spy on more than 10,000 email accounts over a period of seven years.

New Delhi-based BellTroX InfoTech Services targeted government officials in Europe, gambling tycoons in the Bahamas, and well-known investors in the United States including private equity giant KKR and short seller Muddy Waters, according to three former employees, outside researchers, and a trail of online evidence.

Aspects of BellTroX’s hacking spree aimed at American targets are currently under investigation by U.S. law enforcement, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Reuters does not know the identity of BellTroX’s clients. In a telephone interview, the company’s owner, Sumit Gupta, declined to disclose who had hired him and denied any wrongdoing.

Muddy Waters founder Carson Block said he was “disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that we were likely targeted for hacking by a client of BellTroX.” KKR declined to comment.

Researchers at internet watchdog group Citizen Lab, who spent more than two years mapping out the infrastructure used by the hackers, released a report here on Tuesday saying they had "high confidence" that BellTroX employees were behind the espionage campaign.

“This is one of the largest spy-for-hire operations ever exposed,” said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton.

Although they receive a fraction of the attention devoted to state-sponsored espionage groups or headline-grabbing heists, “cyber mercenary” services are widely used, he said. “Our investigation found that no sector is immune.”

A cache of data reviewed by Reuters provides insight into the operation, detailing tens of thousands of malicious messages designed to trick victims into giving up their passwords that were sent by BellTroX between 2013 and 2020. The data was supplied on condition of anonymity by online service providers used by the hackers after Reuters alerted the firms to unusual patterns of activity on their platforms.

The data is effectively a digital hit list showing who was targeted and when. Reuters validated the data by checking it against emails received by the targets.

On the list: judges in South Africa, politicians in Mexico, lawyers in France and environmental groups in the United States. These dozens of people, among the thousands targeted by BellTroX, did not respond to messages or declined comment.

Reuters was not able to establish how many of the hacking attempts were successful.

BellTroX’s Gupta was charged in a 2015 hacking case in which two U.S. private investigators admitted to paying him to hack the accounts of marketing executives. Gupta was declared a fugitive in 2017, although the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the current status of the case or whether an extradition request had been issued.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 10, 2020 at 9:33am

No wonder #Nepal cut off #India's channels that broadcast 24X7X365 false news and #Delhi's propaganda against neighbors! #Pakistan #China #Bhutan #SriLanka https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/indian-news-channels-face-a...


The Multi-System Operators (MSO) have decided to stop the broadcast of Indian news channels in Nepal. The decision will come into effect, immediately, on Thursday.

According to the operators’ latest decision, viewers will not have access to any Indian news channels, except for the Indian state owned Doordarshan news.

While some cable operators implemented the ban immediately, the others are yet to follow suit.

The move comes in the wake of unfounded reports on Nepal carried by some of the Indian news channels, including their defamatory ‘shows’ on the Nepali Prime Minister along with the Chinese envoy.

Earlier today, the spokesperson of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Narayan Kaji Shrestha had slammed the Indian media for their ‘nonsense’ reports on matters related to Nepal and the Nepali government.

These measures follow the events wherein an Indian news channel, Zee Hindustan, broadcasted an imaginative and defamatory programme linking PM Oli with Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 31, 2020 at 10:33am

How to solve one billion complaints
The former head of Twitter India's news, politics, and government on the e-governance platform built for users and what he learned from it

https://restofworld.org/2020/raheel-khursheed-twitter-seva-india/

A former journalist for the local affiliate of CNN, Raheel Khursheed joined Twitter in 2014 as its first head of news, politics, and government in India. In 2016, he launched Twitter Seva, an e-governance platform that enabled Indian citizens to request assistance from government ministries through mentions on Twitter. Khursheed left Twitter in 2018 and has since co-founded a series of startups, including the video-streaming platform-as-a-service Laminar Global.

How do you solve a problem like one billion complaints?
Public systems in India are overstretched. Take the railway, for example, which carries more than 8 billion passengers a year. That scale often translates into apathy on the government’s end regarding any complaints about public services. It wasn’t as though the government didn’t have a complaint system earlier. But you would call a number, and that would fundamentally be the end of it. Who took your call, what happened to that call: nobody quite knew.

I saw that a lot of traditional hierarchies were flattening on Twitter: a lot of regular people tagging high powered ministers and getting almost immediate responses, which is rare in India. I was asking myself: Where can I go with this next? Twitter Seva, which means Twitter service, was the natural progression.

Our system brought the complaints under sunlight. When you put these complaints on our platform, they are public. If there is prominence attached to that complaint — if an editor, influencer, or the community has seen it — the imperative to respond is much higher. You get shamed if you don’t respond.

I remember an incident where a man was traveling on a train, and the air-conditioning was not working. When he told the staff, nobody listened. And then he tweeted, and within minutes, he had staff in the coach working to fix the problem. They even checked to see if he was satisfied with the outcome.

We built a framework of metrics. The focus suddenly went from how many followers to what your presence on your platform was worth. It was about how soon you could resolve an issue. We moved the product from a vanity metric to an impact metric.

It just takes one early adopter
The obvious challenge was getting the government to sign on. People didn’t immediately see the benefit of it. I had gone to the Mumbai police and the Delhi police repeatedly, and those conversations didn’t go anywhere.

So we started this experiment with the Bangalore police. We built this on the police commissioner being an early adopter of the platform, who was super sold on it. We convinced him that he could do a lot more with the platform, and that we could create a workflow to help. He generously opened up his organization for us to conduct this experiment.

We manually kept track of each of their Twitter mentions and assigned it to the relevant officer to resolve the issues tweeted. We eventually automated the process, and at its peak, the Bangalore police were addressing 500 tickets a day from Twitter.

Fundamentally, this created a virtuous circle, where we had government officers respond to complaints, and then immediately, people would praise them. It’s not as if people in government are doing their jobs and getting patted on their backs every day. It was a feedback loop — and the department got hooked on resolving issues even faster.

People thought, “If the railways can do it, then we can too.” Once they realized we had an actual workflow for them, it wasn’t a hard sell. By the time I left Twitter, we had rolled Twitter Seva out within at least 15 ministries.

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 31, 2020 at 10:34am

Facebook #India exec Ankhi Das supported #Modi, saying a day before #Modi's victory in 2014: “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history..it’s taken thirty years of grassroots work to rid India of state socialism finally" https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-executive-supported-indias-mo...

Ms. Das made her sentiments on the race clear. When a fellow staffer noted in response to one of her internal posts that the BJP’s primary opponent, the Indian National Congress, had a larger following on Facebook than Mr. Modi’s individual page, Ms. Das responded: “Don’t diminish him by comparing him with INC. Ah well—let my bias not show!!!”

Internally, Ms. Das presented the company’s work with the BJP as benefiting Facebook as well.

“We’ve been lobbying them for months to include many of our top priorities,” she said of the BJP’s official platform, noting that the document was littered with the word “technology” and appeared to embrace Facebook’s desire for an expanded but less heavily regulated internet. “Now they just need to go and win the elections,” she wrote.
----------


The (Ankhi Das) posts cover the years 2012 to 2014 and were made to a Facebook group designed for employees in India, though it was open to anyone in the company globally who wanted to join. Several hundred Facebook employees were members of the group during those years.

Ms. Das is already at the center of a political outcry in India over Facebook’s handling of hate speech on the platform, following a Journal article earlier this month. That article showed that Ms. Das earlier this year opposed moves to ban from the platform a politician from Mr. Modi’s party whose anti-Muslim comments violated Facebook’s rules.

From its earliest days when it morphed from a college social network into a global political force, Facebook has presented itself as a neutral platform that doesn’t favor any party or viewpoint. The company’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, has said the company’s role is to provide the court, not “pick up a racket and start playing.” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly stressed his position that the company should remain politically neutral, including this year when he defended his decision not to act against provocative posts from President Trump.

Facebook on Tuesday said the posts by Ms. Das don’t show inappropriate bias.

“These posts are taken out of context and don’t represent the full scope of Facebook’s efforts to support the use of our platform by parties across the Indian political spectrum,” spokesman Andy Stone said.

Ms. Das didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. She has apologized to colleagues for sharing a post described in the previous Journal article, in which she approvingly reposted an essay from a former Indian police official who said the country’s Muslims have historically been “a degenerate community.”

As in the U.S., Facebook’s India-based public policy team serves two functions. Staffers make and enforce the platform’s rules about what is and isn’t allowed to be posted, and they represent the company’s interests before governments. Critics both outside the company and inside have increasingly raised concerns about how those roles may conflict.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 7, 2020 at 10:19am

The existential threat from cyber-enabled information warfare
Herbert Lin

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00963402.2019.1629574

Corruption of the information ecosystem is not just a multiplier of two long-acknowledged existential threats to the future of humanity – climate change and nuclear weapons. Cyber-enabled information warfare has also become an existential threat in its own right, its increased use posing the possibility of a global information dystopia, in which the pillars of modern democratic self-government – logic, truth, and reality – are shattered, and anti-Enlightenment values undermine civilization as we know it around the world.

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