Impersonating Arab Princesses On Social Media - How Pakistan Sought To Malign India In Middle East
Recently, social media witnessed a sudden increase in the number of Pakistani accounts changing their profile names to fake Arab, Christian and Hindu identities to spread misinformation and anti-India propaganda.
Security agencies and independent social media users, after investigation, found that the recent hashtags like “Islamophobia in India” on Twitter, were mostly sourced to bots, trolls and people in Pakistan.
The idea was to bombard social media with the content to build a picture of rising anti-Modi sentiment in the Gulf countries, and create a wedge between India and its allies in the Middle East, said government sources.
As per a Hindustan Times report, security agencies have linked the flooding of social media messages targeting India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a coordinated effort that has the “imprint” of Pakistani intelligence.
For instance, a fake Pakistani Twitter account posing as the handle of an Omani Royalty Mona bint Fahd al Said was caught spreading lies.
The handle @SayyidaMona posted anti-India tweets which were retweeted by many, including the Pakistani media personnel.
The tweet led to further investigation into her account which revealed that the account was not Princess Mona's at all but a "parody" account.
A twitter user by the name of @pak_fauj changed its name to that of an Omani princess and tweeted under her name.
The Omani princess later clarified herself that her twitter handle was impersonated.
Similarly, another user created an account impersonating Princess Noura Bint Faisal from the royal house of Saudi Arabia.
As per a WION report, vigilant social media users were able to dig out several old tweets from the account of @pak_fauj which had been deleted and they have an imprint of Pakistani ISPR’s hand.
The saga is now being seen as an organised Pakistani effort to create a rift between India and the Gulf countries which have seen a deepening of ties in recent years.
India has increased its engagement with the Gulf countries since PM Modi came into power in 2014.
The invitation extended to India by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to participate in the foreign ministers’ meet in 2019 was a major blow to Pakistan that has consistently opposed India’s entry into the grouping despite having the third-largest Muslim population in the world.
The assessment by intelligence agencies includes a long list of troll handles based in Pakistan and in the Gulf countries that were being used to push the narrative.
Notably, this is not the first time there has been a spike in messages targeting India. A similar pattern was observed last year after the abrogation of Article 370.
As per an ABP report, Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI recruited ‘cyber jehadis’ who exploited various Social Media Platforms (SMPs) to foment trouble in various parts of India. The ISI had also hired social media influencers in Middle East and Europe to generate trending hashtags on Twitter with an intent to malign India's image.
A social media user Anshul Saxena exposed how a Facebook page, Classified Journal Post (CJ Post) with thousands of subscribers including many Indians, is run by Pakistan.
The CJ Post page usually posts propaganda videos and falsehoods to incite different communities against each other with an objective to disintegrate India into independent Kashmir, Khalistan, Dravidistan etc.
It frequently targets “Brahminism” with an agenda to fuel anti-Brahmin sentiments within Indian society. All the videos are hosted by White Caucasian women anchors.
After Saxena scanned all their accounts across social media platforms, it turned out that the earliest posts were only about Pakistan and mostly in Urdu language.
At some stage, all the CJ Post handles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter switched to global news. However, the accounts changed the content after the Modi government came to power, targeting India.
Another HT report, stated that a new Pakistan-backed and funded terror outfit called The Resistance Front (TRF) Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) came up after India abrogated Article 370.
Incidentally, the terror group was spotted by security agencies on social media platforms such as Twitter and Telegram even before it launched its first attack in Srinagar.
Additionally, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been multiple infiltration attempts and ceasefire violations across Line of Control (LoC) from Pakistan.
This led to Army Chief General MM Naravane saying, "While we are busy not only helping our own citizens but the rest of the world too by sending medical teams and exporting medicines. On the other hand, Pakistan is only exporting terror. This doesn't auger well.”
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