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Fake News - Made in India?
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The revelation that an international fake news network has been working based in India has not only brought disrepute to the country, but also makes a sad commentary on the abyss of fake culture into which our heritage of 'experiment with truth' has fallen. The details of the fake news network was unravelled after extensive investigation by a voluntary organisation of the European Union, Disinfolab. The modus operandi of the extensive chain of propaganda involves using the names of several online media and voluntary organisations that no longer exist, and even of a professor who died long ago. For delivering the pack of such lies across the world for the last 15 years, 750 media outlets are in operation today. The main task of this grid is said to maligning the adversaries of India – especially Pakistan – at international forums. Whatever that be, the investigative report has given Pakistan reason to criticise India. They now argue that the complaints raised against Pakistan at forums like the UN Human Rights Commission and European Parliament, are the products of this fake news outfit. However, the spokesman of India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava reacted that "as a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns". The news agency, alleged to be chiefly indulging in spreading fake news, i.e, Asian News Agency (ANI) has also denied the charge. Both MEA and ANI affirm in one voice that it is all part of a canard circulated by Pakistan.

For its part Disinfolab admits that there is no direct evidence connecting the fake news chain with the Indian government; but the news portals and individuals cited as part of that network all have a nexus with the current ruling party at the Centre. Disinfolab had discovered last year that Delhi-based Srivastava Group had been propagating lies through 265 bogus websites spread over 65 countries; this year their number is found to have increased to 750 wesites. Disinfolab's report titled 'Indian Chronicles' also gives specifics of fake propaganda. There are even cases of using paid speakers to talk against India's adversaries in the name of voluntary organisations at UN Human Rights Council. Further, through means ranging from bogus news sites to European Union's letterhead, these organisations were seeking to form public opinion and demonstrations at global platforms. The report states that among the mainstream media, the one agency that collaborated in the operation was the Indian news agency ANI – an entity known for its standing by the Modi government's on issues arising within the country. As for the Srivastava Group, which Disinfolab names as the mobilisers of the fake news network, it is a private firm which had won attention for the public relations work done for Modi government in the matter of Kashmir. The controversial step during that time was bringing a delegation of far-right members of European Parliament under a special invitation to visit Kashmir. That was done soon after the repeal of Kashmir's special status and imposition of communication blackout in the entire region. It was at a time when even Indian media and members of parliament were denied entry to Kashmir that Srivastava Group organised that 'political tourism' with official blessing. And the leverage of Srivastava Group with the Modi government is also borne out by the fact that the firm was able to facilitate a meeting of the said European delegation with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and even with prime minister Modi.

As a matter of fact, the close links between their masterminds and the government, would make it irrelevant to ask whether or not the government has any formal connections with the portals run by such agencies. The aspect in which Disinfolab's report raises concerns is that the activity casts a heavy shadow over the country's credibility - which has already been ebbing over the past few years. All this would diminish the weight of India's voice at international forums. Already allegations have come from neutral quarters that the revelations by Disinfolab form only a tip of the iceberg and spreading of lies has been going on in wider range and more depth. The very government that suppresses dissenting individuals and media in the name of fake news, maintains close links with fake news networks; and it influences media to tarnish popular protests. Even while hunting and expelling independent NGO's, it fails to denounce those who damage India's respectability at international level by distributing lies through fake NGO's. It is not just a fake news network or those who patronise it that is being put in the dock, but it is the very conscience of the country.

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TAGS:Fake news Srivastava Group ANI Fake portals and entities ceasefire violation 
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