New Delhi: Within hours of the tragic helicopter crash on 8 December that killed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 12 others, social media accounts connected to Pakistan started spreading conspiracy theories, a UK-based tech company with counter-disinformation analysts has said.
The aim of the disinformation campaign — which blamed Tamil insurgents to Nagaland militia groups and even China — was to claim that this crash was not an accident and that there was a plot to kill India’s top-ranking military officer.
The trend of accounts affiliated to Pakistan pushing disinformation as a result of domestic incidents in India is becoming increasingly common, the tech firm Logically.AI said in its report.
Its investigation shows that several Twitter accounts, apparently from Pakistan, have amplified versions of these conspiracy theories.
A tri-service enquiry into the incident is on, and is being headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Training Command.
Among the most popular conspiracy theory was that the helicopter was shot down by “Tamil Rebels”, a term used to refer to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the LTTE, a group which has been inactive since it was defeated by the Sri Lankan Army in 2009.
“The narrative has been driven primarily by Pakistan-based accounts, apparently to take advantage of the existence of pro-Tamil Eelam sympathisers in the state of Tamil Nadu”, the report said.
Top retweets from Pakistan
A Gephi network analysis by the company shows a bot network of more than 480 accounts attempting to amplify narratives about Tamil Rebels being responsible for the crash.
The report said Logically.AI’s analysis of top accounts found that they were all from Pakistan.
“One of the main retweeters, an account called @guldassta, is known to tweet at least 244 times in a day at almost the same times each day, which is indicative of automated activity,” it said. It added that Pakistan has been known to use social media to target its adversaries and advance its political agenda.
Logically.AI had earlier uncovered a disinformation network based in Pakistan spreading polarising narratives about the Mizoram-Assam border clashes in July this year.
In June this year, Meta (previously Facebook) announced that it has taken down 40 Facebook accounts, 25 pages, six groups, and 28 Instagram accounts based in Pakistan.
A report by Graphika, a research firm that studies misinformation and analyses manipulation of social networks, 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.”
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)