Tactics behind pro-India Twitter campaign against Pak’s army revealed – Reuters

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KARACHI: A secret pro-India army Twitter influence operation, suspended earlier this year by the social network, had spread propaganda against the Pakistani army and tried to highlight the alleged successes of the Indian army in Indian-held Kashmir, a Stanford University study has shown.

“#ISPR has created an astounding #4000 network of highly skilled #information warfare specialists over the past decade through a carefully designed internship program that is directly managed by #ISI,” the research from the Stanford Internet Observatory quotes one of the accounts as saying .

In an article titled “My Heart Belongs to Kashmir: An Analysis of a Covert Pro-India Army Twitter Influence Operation” published on Wednesday, Stanford Internet Observatory revealed the tactics employed by the network, the stories he was promoting and the possible network links he had to the Chinar Corps – a branch of the Indian military which operates in occupied Kashmir.

The document notes that Twitter did not publicly attribute the network to any actor, and open source evidence did not allow the researchers to make an independent attribution, but they did highlight Indian news articles that temporarily showed the social media companies Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. suspend official Chinar Corps accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.

It also notes that the content of the Twitter network is in line with Chinar Corps’ objectives, “praising the work of the Indian Army in Indian-occupied Kashmir” and that the official account of the corps, @ChinarcorpsIA is the seventh most mentioned or retweeted account on the network.

The network was most active last year until Twitter suspended “at least a portion of the network in March 2022” for violating its platform manipulation and spamming policy, saying the alleged country of origin was India.

Operating mode

The network tweeted primarily in English, but also in Hindi and Urdu.

The accounts it contained claimed to be relatives of Indian soldiers and proud Kashmiris, and their biographies frequently depicted their locations as being in imprisoned Kashmir. “A bio said: ‘Proud Indian and proud Kashmiri. My heart belongs to Kashmir, soul to India and life to humanity’.

Two accounts existed to target specific individuals who were perceived as enemies of the Indian government and popular hashtags were linked to Kashmir and the Indian and Pakistani military, according to the study.

The accounts often used profile pictures purchased elsewhere on the internet.

Tweets from the suspended network tagged both genuine and suspended accounts, including regional journalists, Balochistan politicians and Indian politicians, according to the study. The newspaper did not mention which Balochistan politicians were tagged by the network in its tweets.

“Tweets identifying journalists were either intended to draw journalists’ attention to events or to draw journalists’ attention to events – often in an apparent attempt to target the journalist for what was presented as anti- Indian,” he said.

The study highlights two accounts in particular in the network that “existed to target journalists, activists and politicians in this way”. Accounts – @KashmirTraitors and @KashmirTraitor1 – and an accompanying YouTube channel, “targeted specific individuals, focusing on what the account deemed to be ‘anti-Indian’ journalists, calling the journalists a ‘#whitecolarterrorist’, for example; saying that they were working to corrupt the minds of the Kashmiri; and accusing them of taking money from Pakistan”.

The stories targeted figures, such as American activist and author Pieter Friedrich, who is critical of the Indian government and Hindutva, and Fahad Shah, a currently imprisoned Indian journalist, who has also criticized the BJP government.

By targeting specific individuals, the @KashmirTraitors the account would occasionally tag the official Chinar Corps account, @ChinarcorpsIAto draw their attention to a thread.

This network also targeted the Pakistani government. A @KashmirTraitors tweet said: “#ISPR has created an astounding #4000 network of highly skilled #information warfare specialists over the last decade through a carefully designed internship program which is directly managed by #ISI”, l study quotes the account as saying.

Dozens of network accounts mentioned or retweeted Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, or @Tiny_Dhillona former Chinar Corps commander, who has been “mentioned or retweeted over 1,000 times”.

What were their stories?

The narratives were blatantly anti-Pakistan and anti-China, with the report providing examples of how the network tackled them.

They highlighted the protests in Pakistan, with particular emphasis on Balochistan. A tweet read: “Students protest in Islamabad against internet inaccessibility in #Balochistan.

The report adds: “Accounts accused Pakistan of spreading baseless allegations of atrocities committed by the Indian military, and they accused Pakistani soldiers of committing human rights abuses and protecting terrorists. Tweets claimed that Pakistan was not safe for Hindus or Muslims, and that Pakistan abandoned Pakistani citizens in China when the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Tweets also criticized the state of women’s rights in Pakistan. A suspended account shared a tweet that read, “Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been attacked after accusing women’s clothing of being behind the rise in rapes and sexual assaults (sic).”

Regarding the anti-Chinese narrative, the report highlights how the network attempted to portray the alleged dominance of the Indian military over the Chinese military. “Indian soldiers are brave, while Chinese soldiers surrender easily. Indian soldiers were called “bravehearts” and soldiers killed in clashes with China were called heroes and martyrs. According to the network, all of India’s failed attacks were due to unethical Chinese strategies.

Authors Shelby Grossman, Emily Tianshi, David Thiel, and Renée DiResta conclude by saying “our report only scratches the surface” and call on researchers to dig deeper into the network.

Posted in Dawn, September 23, 2022


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