India needs its own anti-disinformation army to counter campaigns such as “#BoycottIndianProducts”

disinformation army

The growing disinformation campaigns have become a substantial problem in developing countries like India, which already lacks specific provision of law that deals with fake news. Clearly, India needs its own set of disinformation army to counterattack.

Today, Indian law enforcement is challenged to respond more efficiently. They are using all-source intelligence, OSINT, platforms to perform multi-dimensional visual analysis with advanced analysis capabilities that perform at speed and scale. Moving on with the trend, digital forensics has become an important aspect offering application of scientific investigatory techniques to digital crimes and attacks.

In the internet age, both the government and private sectors in India are rewarding and offering lucrative career path in the digital forensics. Recently, Punjab Police announced to fill 634 positions in legal, forensics, IT and finance domain. Out of the total number of vacancies 81 are in finance domain, 248 in IT, 174 in forensics, and 131 in legal.

Apparently, like Punjab Police other law enforcement agencies would also be introducing such openings in near future to have its own cyber tech army to counter rising disinformation and other cyber attacks.

Recently, a social media campaign called #BoycottIndianProducts was trending on Twitter. The false campaign is aimed at harming India’s relations with the Middle Eastern nations that has been playing a crucial role in improving the Indian economy.

From Iraq, Israel, Oman to UAE, India shares strategic ties with most of the Persian Gulf countries. Hence, the false social media campaigns aims at maligning India’s image globally.

The DisinfoLab stated that most of the handles promoting #BoycottIndianProducts hashtags were related to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The anti-India campaign started after the eviction drive against the encroachers in Assam went violent. Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries including Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, and Iraq launched campaigns using Twitter account and verified handles of citizens to spread the boycott movement.

The anti-India trend also included another tag that stated #IndiaIsKillingMuslims. Mohamed Al Sagheer, Sami Kamal El Din, Ahmad Muaffaq Zeidan, Yasser Abu Hilalah, Omar Abdulaziz, were some of the influencers who led the psy-war against India.

The DisinfoLab stated that the content was mostly posted in Arabic and presented the boycott campaign as a response to the Muslim atrocities in India. The fact-checkers debunked several videos and images that belonged to unrelated incidents claiming them to be the attacks by Hindu majority. The report revealed that the handles also targeted the Middle Eastern countries i.e. Saudi Arabia and the UAE that had close ties with India.

The Middle Eastern news channel – Al Jazeera, the Turkish state-owned news channel TRT World, Egyptian Rassd News Network (RNN), Arabi21 from Egypt funded by Qatar, Al-Araby News from UK funded by Qatar, US-based Arab-American newspaper Watan Serb etc., became the most prominent media houses promoting the campaign.

Pakistan also aligned itself with the social media campaign against India. It was at the forefront in sharing a video of a Muslim family attacked Muslims in India to claim that the Muslim family was beaten by Hindus.

Over time, Pakistan has tried to propagatise Kashmir using its own disinformation army. They used hashtags like “redkashmir, KashmiriLivesMatter, IIOJK under Seize”, which started circulating from Indonesia, Vigur, and Rohingyas and #ThanksJinnah, #ExposeIndia, #ShameOnIndia etc., to manipulate global media.

In view of the growing social media disinformation from the neighbouring adversaries, India too has responded with the similar intensity, with the help of private firms like Srivastava Group. The Indian firm got the center stage as a shadowy business conglomerate that had been running a global operation for nearly 15 years, aimed at targeting Pakistan.

Despite being a non-state actor, the Indian firm constantly operated a network of physical and digital assets, while offering services to its clients. With several untraceable and unidentifiable links, Srivastava Group-led disinformation became one of the greatest Indian campaigns against Pakistan.

Many rival nations have come forward and are attacking Indian cyberspace on a regular basis. And, Twitter has clearly failed to monitor the incidents of disinformation, and info-war on its platform. Against the spectre of disinformation campaigns that have continued doing serious reputation damages to India, the country needs to have its own anti-disinformation army. By promoting career and training in digital forensics it is making extra efforts to mitigate the existing gaps in cyber sector and prove its capability all over the world.

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