Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — A European Union Disinformation Lab has unearthed a fake news scam, and said an entity is running a disinformation campaign involving over 265 fake local news sites in more than 65 countries managed by an Indian network, which is “designed to influence policies against Pakistan and Kashmir in the European Union and the United Nations.”
EU DisinfoLab is an initiative that tackles sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the European Union. According to a report published in disinfo.eu in early October, the European External Action Service’s East StratCom (the EU Disinformation Task Force) revealed that eptoday.com – the website of a self-proclaimed magazine for the European Parliament in Brussels – had been re-publishing a large amount of news directly from Russia Today and Voice of America. “Among this syndicated content, we unexpectedly found a large number of articles and op-eds related to minorities in Pakistan as well as other India-related matters.”
With the internet boom, fake news has played a vital role in stoking mob violence against individuals from minority communities in India over the past couple of years. Even well-established media organisations run disinformation campaigns to influence policies of the right-wing nationalist government in India on contentious issues concerning Muslims, Kashmir and Pakistan.
The lab found that the website is managed by Indian stakeholders with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the Srivastava Group based in New Delhi. The obscure NGO that managed the recently concluded and controversial visit of far-right EU lawmakers to Kashmir is directly linked with the EP Today and its aides like the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, the investigation found.
Investigations by the lab into the network of the shady companies led researchers to the Times of Geneva, based in Geneva. “Strangely enough, Times of Geneva publishes the same type of content as EP Today and produces videos covering events and demonstrations criticising Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict,” the article reads.
“We found hard evidence that both EP Today and Times of Geneva have extremely strong ties with a network of NGOs and think tanks, such as the European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), and Pakistani Women’s Human Rights Organization,” it says.
Using various investigative methods, the researchers discovered the presence of Canadian and American (now offline) NGOs and think tanks on the same servers as EP Today and Srivastava Group. “We discovered an additional network of over 265 resurrected media in more than 65 countries following a similar modus operandi,” the report said.
The researchers analysed the modus operandi of these fake news websites and networks and found that the purpose was to influence international institutions and elected representatives. The research found that the network was able to manipulate the readers by adding 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.
The research found that the websites tried to “influence public perceptions on Pakistan by multiplying iterations of the same content available on search engines.”