A network of fake social media profiles of people claiming to be Sikhs, and promoting stories that
A new one report shared exclusively with Hfrance.fr before its publication on Wednesday identifying 80 accounts on the network, which were suspended because they were false.
Le Operation d influence used accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram topromoting Hindu nationalism and pro-Indian government narratives.
The aim of the network appears to have been to change perceptions on important issues concerning Sikh independence, the rights of the man and values ", according to report author Benjamin Strick.
There is no evidence directly linking this network to the Indian government, which has yet to respond to a request for comment from Hfrance.fr.
'Sock puppets '
The network used so-called "sock puppet " accounts, which are fake controlled by real people pretending to be individuals independent, rather than automated "bots ".
The fake profiles used Sikh names and claimed to be “real Sikhs”. They used the hashtags #RealSikh to approve and #FakeSikh to discredit different political views.
The report, from the nonprofit Center for Information Resilience (CIR), revealed that many network accounts were using the same fake profiles on multiple platforms. These accounts shared the same names, profile photos and cover photos, and posted identical articles.
Many accounts used profile photos of celebrities, including actresses in the film industry from the Punjab.
Image source, Benjamin Strick / CIR Image caption, The fake accounts used celebrity photos and gave them Sikh names
Using a profile photo of celebrity does not by itself prove that an account is fake. However, the report says that, combined with coordinated messaging, frequently used hashtags, biography deions, and similar follower models, the images added to the proof that each of these accounts weren't genuine.
La Hfrance.fr tried to contact eight of the celebrities whose images had been used, asked ng comment. One of them responded via his management to confirm that he was not aware that his image had been used of this manother celebrity, and said he would take action.
The management of another celebrity said there were thousands of fake accounts associated with their client, and that there wasn't much they could do about it.
On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of three controversial farm laws after a year of farmer protests against them.
The farmers' protests, which began a year ago this week, and the decades-old Khalistan independence movement were the two most frequently targeted talking points by the network. According to the report, the accounts sought to label any notion of Sikh independence as extremist and to delegitimize the farmers' protests, claiming they had been hijacked by "terrorists".stes khalistani ”.
But before that, the Indian government had also claimed that the farmers 'protest had been "infiltrated by the Khalistanis ".
Farmers who continue to protest think it ' s Perhaps this is a deliberate political decision.
"We believe these accounts were created at the behest of the government and were made to build a narrative against the protests "said Jagjit Singh Dalewal, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan union, one of some 30 unions sitting in protest.
Some recits described diaspora communities in the UK and Canada as home to the Khalistani movement.
The accounts had thousands of subscribers, and the network's posts were liked and retweeted by many real influencers and quoted on news sites.
Image source, Twitter Image caption, This Tweet from a fake network account received almost 17,000 likes
Impact and influence
Many influencer trades fail to get real people to interact with the fake accounts they create. In the case of this network, however, the research identified posts with which the verified accounts of public figures interacted and approved.
The report also identified the content of the fake profiles embedded on the blogs of News and commentary sites.
Experts in influence operations describe this as "amplification ", and the more the network receives, the more impetus there is. 'he may have.
La Hfrance.fr contacted some of the verified accounts that had interacted with the posts in the network.
RubleNagi, who on Twitter describes herself as a humanitarian and social worker, responded to one of the fake accounts' tweets with two clapping emojis. She said she was "sad that this was a fake account ".
Col Rohit Dev, who calls himself a military geopolitical analyst, responded to the One of those accounts with thumbs-up emojis, but told us he didn't know the person behind the hilt.
Nikhil Pahwa, digital rights activist and publisher of the technology policy website MediaNama, says these influence networks target individuals with a particular point of view.
"Those 80-plus accounts won't necessarily do anything trending, but with consistent posting they try to discredit a point of view, " he said.
"It seems to be a sophisticated approach, and seems to be part of a larger operation. "
Source of the 'image, Benjamin Strick / CIR Image caption, This graphic shows how the network's Twitter accounts interacted with each other: the bigger the circle, the more interactions there are
Very little of the content included text in Punjabi - the largest language for Sikhs in India - and almost all of the content was in English.
Mr. Pahwa points out that there has been political activity around the protests by farmers on all sides, with people trying to support and discredit them.
"It's all part of the game to win the political narrative war.
La Hfrance.fr shared the report with Twitter and Meta - the company that owns Facebook and Instagram - asking for comment.
Twitter has suspended accounts for violating their rules prohibiting "platform manipulation" and fake accounts.
A spokesperson from Twitter said: "At this point there is no evidence of widespread coordination, the use of multiple accounts by single people, or other platform manipulation tactics. .
Meta also deleted accounts on Facebook and Instagram for violating its "inauthentic behavior " policies.
A spokesperson for Meta said the accounts "misled people about the origin and popularity of their content and used fake accounts to spam people and escape our app ".