In a recent Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB) report of Facebook, the platform has taken down 40 Facebook accounts, 25 Pages, six Groups, and 28 Instagram accounts based in Pakistan. “Although the people behind it attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with AlphaPro, a Pakistan-based PR firm,” Facebook said.
“Key narratives advanced by the network included: praise for Pakistan and its armed forces; efforts to denigrate India and highlight attacks by Hindu nationalists targeting religious minorities; support for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan; and promotion of the government-backed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investment project.” said a Graphika report, a research firm that studies misinformation and analyzes manipulation of social networks.
Fake Media Outlets:
Facebook has identified and taken down the network of these fake media outlets. The mentioned accounts and pages are the prime entities spotted in the operation.
The official ‘CJ post’ Facebook page was created in January 2016, branding itself as a “classified journal”. The associated website – cjpost.co.uk, created in February 2019, has a total of six articles concerning these issues like human rights violations involving religious minorities in India, Kashmir independence and abuses its people have suffered at the hands of the Indian Military, and alleged diplomatic tensions between India and US.
The Facebook page of ‘Poorv Files’ was created in May 2020. This news media outlet uses to publish short videos on the Facebook page and associated youtube channel and the majority of video content is focused on Pakistan’s rivalry with India. Freelance journalists who appeared in most of the videos are supportive of the Pakistani Government, two of them previously worked at state broadcaster PTV and one helped Alpha Pro to produce a military documentary.
Asal Baat’ is another media outlet from the same network publishing politically-themed video content. It has targeted Indian defence, intelligence and government frequently. A video posted with the title, “The struggle for Kashmir in the digital age: Wani is Kashmir” in July 2018 was produced by Alpha Pro.
Another similar news outlet named ‘Aik Minute Aik Khabar’ created in 2015 published video content in the same manner supporting Pakistan Government and criticising India, and also targeted domestic protesters
Graphika said that the Indian Government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were attacked frequently by these identified fake media outlets. The posts were concerned with many issues, including human rights abuses conducted by Indian troops in J&K, mentioning Hindu nationalist attacks against religious minorities, and highlighting New Delhi as increasingly isolated on the international stage. The network also gave extensive coverage to farmers’ protests.
According to Graphika’s investigation, there are multiple open-source links between AlphaPro and Pakistan military’s Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR). AlphaPro serves the ISPR as mentioned in their client’s roster. Also, four former and current Alpha Pro employees previously worked for the ISPR. Praises for the Pakistan armed forces narrative propagated by identified fake news outlets aligned with the interest of ISPR.