A network of fake social media profiles of people who claim to be Sikhs and promote divisive ideology has been exposed. A report shared with the BBC gives information about 80 accounts involved in this network, which have now been suspended because they were fake. The campaign used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote ‘Hindu nationalism’ and a ‘Indian government-supported ideology’.
According to report author Benjamin Strick, the network appears to be aimed at “changing perceptions on important issues related to Sikh freedom, human rights and values”. However, no evidence has been found of this network being related to the Government of India. The network used ‘puppet’ accounts, which were fake and used by real people. Sikh names were used in the fake profile and claimed to be the ‘real Sikh’.
Two types of hashtags used
He used the hashtags #RealSikh to promote and #FakeSikh to defame. The report has been prepared by the non-profit organization Center for Information Resilience (CIR). It was found that multiple accounts on the network used the same fake profile on different platforms. The names, profile photos and cover photos of these accounts were identical and similar posts were published from them.
Conspiracy to defame the peasant movement
Profile photos of celebrities including Punjabi film industry actresses have been used in several accounts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced the repeal of three controversial agriculture laws, a year after farmers protested. This network had targeted the farmers’ movement and the ‘Khalistan independence movement’ which had been going on for almost a year. According to the report, the accounts sought to label the Sikh independence ideology as extremism and claimed that the farmers’ protests had been captured by ‘Khalistani terrorists’.