By Ravie Lakshmanan
New Delhi: Researchers have discovered a network of 265 fake local news sites — named after defunct newspapers and media outlets — across 65 countries that are being used to disseminate anti-Pakistan coverage and serve Indian governmental interests.
Uncovered by the EU DisinfoLab, an EU-based NGO focused on researching sophisticated disinformation campaigns, the operations were traced back to a group of Indian companies, NGOs, and think tanks.
The sites — such as 4newsagency.com, eptoday.com, and timesofgeneva.com — operated by serving syndicated news from Russia Today and Voice of America. But the researchers said they “unexpectedly” found a large number of articles and op-eds related to minorities in Pakistan as well as other India-related topics.
“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 EU DisinfoLab noted.
By piecing together the campaign to an online media company — interchangeably called as International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), New Delhi Times, and the Srivastava Group — the EU DisinfoLab believes the goal was to influence public perceptions on Pakistan by multiplying the same negative anti-Pakistan press coverage across hundreds of sites.
More troubling, the network of zombie companies were found lobbying the EU and the UN by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan — a move that culminated in a group of 27 EU parliamentarians, mostly from right-wing political parties, visiting the Kashmir Valley upon an invite from IINS.
“The idea seems to have been an effort to control the conversation around what is happening in the region,” BBC reported on the EU delegate visit. Thenextweb.com