In 2019, an investigation by the non-governmental organisation EU DisinfoLab alleged that it had discovered a community of fake news and lobbying websites that sought to advertise Indian pursuits overseas. This community, it alleged, had connections to the little-known organisation that arranged a visit of Members of the European Parliament to Kashmir in October 2019, shortly after the Indian authorities scrapped the particular standing the territory had been accorded beneath the Structure.
That organisation appeared to share its official tackle with the Srivastava Group, which describes itself as “one of many quickest rising enterprise homes” in India, regardless of little or no being identified about it.
A 12 months later, the NGO has released a report that it claims reveals “an enormous on-line and offline 15-year ongoing affect operation supporting Indian pursuits and discrediting Pakistan internationally”. Whereas EU DisinfoLab’s investigation into this operation didn’t flip up any proof of ties to the Indian authorities or a political physique, it alleged that the disinformation efforts had been “led by the Srivastava Group and amplified by ANI”, the information company that, critics claim, has apro-government tilt in India.
Scroll.in has despatched e-mail to ANI editor Smita Prakash in search of a response to those allegations. This text will probably be up to date if she responds.
“By no means earlier than in our investigations have we been so astonished on the multiplication of layers of faux,” the NGO claims in its report. “[The fake news network] resurrected useless media, useless think-tanks and NGOs. It even resurrected useless individuals. The actors behind this operation hijacked the names of others and tried to impersonate common media and press businesses such because the EU Observer, The Economist and Voice of America… They misappropriated the image of a former UK Authorities Minister and BBC Director on Fb, registered the names of deceased individuals to attend occasions 5 years after their demise, and invented dozens of journalist identities.”
The goal of the general operation, based on EU DisinfoLab was “to bolster pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese language) emotions” in India, and, “internationally, to consolidate the ability and enhance the notion of India, to wreck the fame of different international locations and in the end profit from extra help from worldwide establishments such because the EU and the UN”.
How did it do that?
EU DisinfoLab breaks down the allegations through a graphic in its executive summary:
A key component of the marketing campaign, alleges the report, was the Srivastava Group’s alleged use of United Nations-accredited non-government organisations and people linked to them – together with, in a single distinguished case, an individual who was useless.
The US-based Fee to Examine the Group of Peace, which had change into inactive within the Seventies, was – based on the report – resurrected by the Srivastava Group and used as a part of the lobbying efforts. This included claiming that the organisation’s former chairman Louis B Sohn, an American scholar of worldwide regulation and human rights, had attended an occasion organised by Buddies of Gilgit-Baltistan in Washington, DC in 2011, despite the fact that he had died in 2006.
The EU DisinfoLab report is, actually, devoted to Sohn.
Based on the report, these UN-accredited organisations, together with one which was initially associated to the canned meals business, had been resurrected and had been repeatedy given the ground on the United Nations Human Rights Council, at which they regularly introduced up Pakistan even when it was not related to the topic.
“These UN-accredited NGOs work in coordination with non-accredited think-tanks and minority-rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva. A number of of them – just like the European Group for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), Baluchistan Home and the South Asia Democratic Discussion board (SADF) – had been instantly however opaquely created by the Srivastava group,” the report alleged.
These organisations led the EU DisinfoLab to the EU Chronicle, a faux media outlet with faux journalists “supposedly masking European affairs, but basically offering a platform for MEPs to signal pro-Indian articles”, the report alleged. “In lower than 6 months of existence, already 11 MEPs have written or endorsed op-eds at a remarkably excessive tempo for EU Chronicle.”
And that then introduced the investigation to ANI, the Indian information company.
“The one invaluable protection these op-eds obtain, comes from an quick repackaging by an Indian press company named ANI,” the report mentioned.
Primarily based on this, the EU DisinfoLab claimed to have unearthed a a lot bigger operation:
“The protection – and infrequently distortion – by ANI of the content material produced in Brussels and Geneva led us to the Huge Information Community and the World Information Community – a whole community of 500+ faux native media in 95 international locations which have helped reproduce damaging iterations about Pakistan (or China). We additionally realised that the content material produced was primarily focused at Indian nationals, with an intensive protection of those barely identified ‘media’, MEPs and ‘NGOs’ in Europe.”
EU DisinfoLab mentioned that its investigation confirmed how the actions of pretend NGOs and pretend media may very well be “repackaged, distorted and amplified” to “disinform globally, utilizing loopholes in worldwide establishments and on-line search engines like google and yahoo”.
The BBC, which reported the story and specifically the connections to the little-known Srivastava Group, contacted to the Srivastava household in addition to ANI for a response however did not get any, together with from workers on the workplace of the group’s tech agency Agyala.
The report concluded that the disinformation marketing campaign had managed to create help teams throughout the European Parliament, affect European and worldwide policymaking and maximise “damaging content material about Pakistan on-line, primarily utilizing a community of pretend native media the world over”.
The NGO identified that its conclusions are “under no circumstances a judgement of the state of affairs of human rights in Pakistan, nor ought to it serve to undermine the credibility of minority actions in Pakistan”.
Stating that its outcomes will however most definitely be utilized by Pakistani authorities for their very own ends, the report referred to as for readers to “keep in mind that it’s not as a result of one aspect makes use of dodgy affect campaigns that the opposite aspect doesn’t: A easy Google search will lead you to examine inauthentic behaviours supporting Pakistani pursuits.”
The report ends with conclusions for European policymakers, summarised beneath:
“We’re alarmed to see the continuation of Indian Chronicles which – regardless of our first report and large press protection – has pursued its 15-year lengthy operation and even lately launched EU Chronicle, a faux EU outlet. This could function a name to motion for decision-makers to place in place a related framework to sanction actors abusing our worldwide establishments. It’s potential that the absence of messages from the establishments affected by Indian Chronicles supplied the house and alternative for the operation to reinvent itself and to proceed doing “extra of the identical”
It’s additionally our perception that the likelihood for malicious actors to abuse search engines like google and yahoo by reproducing the identical content material a whole lot of instances ought to even be challenged.”
Learn the Indian Chronicles report here.