New Delhi: Twitter has suspended several handles which had used open-source intelligence (OSINT) to put out details of Indian military aircraft, other than fighters, on 26 and 27 February, the day of the Balakot strikes and Pakistan’s retaliatory action respectively.
The social media giant has told handles like the popular @ELINTNews, that they’ve been suspended for “violating Indian laws”.
The move has led to speculation that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is behind it. However, sources in the IAF remained tight-lipped about this development, with some also expressing ignorance.
Some accounts also faced ‘shadow bans’, which prevent users from searching and finding tweets by the suspended user or his/her account. One can access these only when the specific URL is typed in the browser, or a link to the account is provided.
Of the many accounts suspended since the weekend, @IntelCrab has become active again.
Why the crackdown
During the increased tensions between India and Pakistan in February in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack and the IAF strike on Balakot, many Twitter handles had put out live movements of both Pakistan and Indian military aircraft, including tankers and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).
These handles depended on websites like www.flightradar24.com, which provide real time tracking facilities for almost every flight in the world.
Sources in the IAF said the force was surprised when it realised its assets were visible on various handles.
Usually, military aircraft switch to encrypted military transponders when in operation, but when flying in civil air space, ‘civil mode’ is switched on in certain areas or phases of flight.
Handles not based in India
The social media accounts in question have become a big resource for real time monitoring of military aircraft movement across the world, especially in times of conflict. These accounts are not based in India.
The letter sent to @ELINTNews, accessed by ThePrint, said “Twitter has received official correspondence” regarding the handle.
“The correspondence claims that your account and the following tweet is in violation of Indian law,” the letter said.
The move comes after certain media reports accused these handles of being run by Pakistan’s ISI, in the aftermath of the 27 February ‘retaliatory strikes’ by Pakistan, a day after India conducted air strikes on a terror camp in Balakot.
The article was based on the claims of Hyderabad-based media house ‘GreatGameIndia’, which now claims it was the Indian Army that had ordered the crackdown on the handles in question.
Do note the other side of the story. ELINTNews and others were caught peddling subversive propaganda under guise of #OSINT during ongoing India-Pak conflict and hence acted upon by Indian Army. Notice also served to #CommandEleven HQ.https://t.co/EKJ2DOHU0G
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) June 17, 2019