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Pakistan’s disinformation campaign on overdrive mode and how India hit back

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New Delhi, Dec 22: In a closely coordinated effort between intelligence agencies and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Ministry on Monday ordered the blocking of 20 channels on YouTube and 2 websites spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news on the internet. Vide two separate orders - one for 20 YouTube channels directing YouTube, and the other for 2 news websites, requesting Department of Telecom to direct the internet service providers for blocking of the news channels/portals.

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Pakistan’s disinformation campaign on overdrive mode and how India hit back

The channels and websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India. The channels were used to post divisive content in a coordinated manner on topics like Kashmir, Indian Army, minority communities in India, Ram Mandir, General Bipin Rawat, etc.

The modus operandi of the anti-India disinformation campaign involved The Naya Pakistan Group (NPG), operating from Pakistan, having a network of YouTube channels, and some other standalone YouTube channels not related to NPG. The channels had a combined subscriber base of over 35 lakh, and their videos had over 55 crore views. Some of the YouTube channels of the Naya Pakistan Group (NPG) were being operated by anchors of Pakistani news channels.

How India dismantled the Pakistan coordinated disinformation operationHow India dismantled the Pakistan coordinated disinformation operation

These YouTube channels had also posted content on issues such as the farmers' protest, protests related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and tried to incite the minorities against the Government of India. It was also feared that these YouTube channels would be used to post content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states.

The Ministry has acted to secure the information space in India, and utilised emergency powers under the Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The Ministry observed that Most of the content pertains to subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security and are factually incorrect, and are being mainly posted from Pakistan as a coordinated disinformation network (as in the case of Naya Pakistan Group) against India and thus deemed it fit for action under the provisions to block content in case of emergency, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said.

Following the death of India's first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, the disinformation campaign in Pakistan seems to be in overdrive mode suggesting all sorts of conspiracy theories.
Many said that it could be a strike by insurgents, while others called it an internal hit job. One of the most common claims being made by the Pakistanis is that the chopper in which General Rawat was travelling was shot down by the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE was defeated by the Sri Lankan forces in 2009.

These claims were first fact-checked by Logically. The full story can be read here:

On the handle of the Pakistan Strategic Forum, it was said, " Mi-17VS helicopter of Indian Air Force carrying Indian Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat was reportedly shot by Tamil insurgents. The Pakistan Strategic Forum, a blog claims that it is a think-tank. The Tamil Nadu Crime Branch filed a case against this handle, following which the post was withdrawn.

Another handle @shiningsadaf also made a similar claim and said that it was the LTTE that shot down the chopper in which the CDS was travelling. Another user Hamza Azhar Salam said that while some claim that the crash was caused by the LTTE, other sources say that it may be an insider job by the Modi government reflecting a serious command and control crisis in the Indian Armed Forces.

All these claims are completely baseless. Experts have said that bad weather and controlled flying into the terrain may have caused the crash. The Indian Air Force which is probing the crash has said that a report ascertaining the cause of the accident would be out soon. Further the IAF had also urged people not to speculate on the matter.

The tweets from these Pakistan handles are clearly a sustained campaign to put out conspiracy theories with an intention of creating unrest in India. By putting conspiracy theories such as the one relating to the LTTE or the internal hit job, the Pakistanis clearly want to create tensions within India, officials tell OneIndia. They also are trying to create a doubt among the people of the country about the government the official also said.

All these conspiracy theories also led to a Twitter handle @mysterypilot007 saying, 'for all Kashmiri freedom fighters who were burnt alive by using phosphorous bombs. Stay strong, freedom fighters, the Tamil rebels and Khalsas are soon going to join you against India.

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