South Asia Index: A Fake News and Propaganda Peddling Platform
South Asia Index’s official Twitter page and website focuses on the economy, politics, diplomacy, defence, climate change & other matters of South Asia. Its Twitter page has a following of more than 100k around the world and was started on December 2019. The page, as its bio states, presents global news to its followers.
While scrolling through its page and website, out of all the countries, one would find that it mainly has its focus on India and specifically on the kind of news which will malign the image of India globally.
The DFRAC’s exclusive report will focus on this agenda-driven page and website which mostly works against India and its government. The report will also reveal how through the weapon of news, the agenda is propagated and has spread fake news. The main attraction points of the report will be:
- Agenda- Driven News on India
- How the news on India varies from other South Asian countries
- Fake News
Agenda-Driven News on India:
After going through the website, we found that there were many reports on various south Asian countries including various reports on India which focused on many agenda-driven topics targeting India.
All the reports mainly pictured India in a negative light. The page has also covered many reports related to Kashmir and China issues.
There are also reports which directly criticise Indian Government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
How the news on India Varies from other South Asian Countries:
As the page is showcasing India in an entirely dark portrayal, on the contrary, many reports and articles are written on the website which shows a glowing picture of Pakistan.
With the exception of India, all the other countries are shown in a positive manner and the pattern of report writing is rather vague for all the other countries.
Fake News on Wheels:
Being a news page, the page should have no space for fake news but on the contrary, while browsing the Twitter account of South Asia Index we found many fake news which is moulded in such a way that much of this news tries to degrade India all while presenting a good picture of Pakistan.
Fake News 1:
The account targeted India and tweeted, “Just IN:— Death of 99 children in Indonesia linked to Indian-made cough syrups. Govt bans all cough syrups.”
To analyze the originality of the viral claim, the DFRAC team investigated on the death of 99 children in Indonesia. The team found that several media houses had covered the news. We also found an article about this on Slashdot.
The article reports – The case comes just weeks after cough syrup was linked to the deaths of nearly 70 children in The Gambia. Indonesia said ingredients linked to acute kidney injury (AKI) were found in some syrup medicine that killed 99 young children this year.
On further investigation, Indonesian health minister, Budi Gunadisadikin was quoted by the media as saying that some of those syrups were produced locally. The minister’s statement is also mentioned in the reports of Reuters, Dawn, and Indonesia Local.
Source: Reuters Report
We found a BBC report where they have mentioned that it is actually not clear whether the drugs were imported or locally produced.
Source: BBC Report
Fake News 2:
Favouring Pakistan, the account tweeted, “Just IN: — Russia to sell oil to Pakistan at discount. Oil shipments to begin soon.”
The team did a keyword search on this and found a report from the international news site called “International The News” where they have mentioned that “Russian side has said it could not offer anything right now as all volumes were committed.”
Many reports from leading Indian newspapers like Economic Times , The Print etc., have clearly mentioned that Russia has refused to sell oil in discount to Pakistan.
Fake News 3:
The account then made a statement on the new CEO of the Twitter, Elon Musk, and wrote, “Just IN:— Elon Musk has discussed to make twitter access limited to United States only, in an attempt to cut costs.”
We checked the official twitter account of Elon Musk where we found no official statement regarding this from his side.
Furthermore, if this would have been the case, it would have made itself to the headlines, which also did not occur.
We further checked using some keywords and found a report from the INSIDER in which it is mentioned that some of the areas where Elon Musk is trying to cut down costs include:
- Some features of Twitter are being shut down in order to further reduce costs and “streamline”.
- The planned redesign of ‘Explore’ will only have two tabs, “Trending” and “For you,” the latter of which will be an “infinite swipeable video feed”.
- Current Explore tabs like “News”, “Sports” and “Country” will be removed etc.
In this entire report, there is no mention of making Twitter access limited to United States.
Fake News 4:
The account backed up Pakistan, stating, “Just IN:— Pakistan NAVY warships arrive in Qatar for #FIFAWorldCup security, amid reports of a possible ‘action by Iran’ against Qatar.”
In his next tweet, it quoted Israeli media as saying that Iran plans to disrupt the #FIFAWorldCup in Qatar. The only thing holding Iran back is that it is unsure about the ‘reaction’ of the Qatari government.
To verify the claim of the South Asia Index, the DFRAC team did a simple Google search. During this, we came across a report of Pakistan Today in which the Pakistani Navy’s warship is confirmed to reach Qatar for the security of the World Cup.
Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS), Tabuk, arrived at a port in Qatar on Tuesday to provide security support to the oil and gas-rich Sheikhdom that will host the FIFA World Cup, reports said. It was also stated that Qatar has formally recruited security forces from 13 countries to assist local partners in ensuring a smooth World Cup.
It also includes security missions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. The report did not say anything about a possible attack by Iran.
Moreover, we also found reports of Daily Times, Daily Pakistan which mentioned about the warship guarding the World Cup. The official Twitter account of Directorate of Electronic Media and Publications of Pakistan also tweeted the same.
It is clear that South Asia Index’s claim of Pakistan sending warships to protect Qatar due to Iran’s possible attack is fake.
Fake News 5:
The account championed Pakistan yet again, by tweeting, “Just IN:— FATF has removed Pakistan from grey list after its 3 days plenary in Berlin, Germany.”
To verify the veracity of this viral claim, we investigated and found a report published on the website of ‘Hindustan Times’ with the title, “Pakistan will not be removed from FATF grey list immediately, decision will be taken after visiting”
We searched on Google, in order to know about the countries which are in FATF grey list and found that Pakistan was at number 14 in the list on the date the claim was made.
Further, when the team checked about the recent scenario of Pakistan being in the Grey List, we found that many reports on different media sites like Times of India dated 21st October that states that now Pakistan has been removed from the list.
Fake News 6:
On the website, the account had a report stating that Xiaomi, which is a Chinese designer and manufacturer of consumer electronics and related software, home appliances, and household items is considering moving its business from India to Pakistan.
Source: South Asia Index
We found a tweet of Xiaomi where the company refuted such claims made by the official page of South Asia Index.
Consequently, we also found a report from The New Indian Express where it is mentioned that Xiaomi has denied these claims.
According to the report, the smartphone manufacturer said that the tweet saying “‘Xiaomi may move its operations from India to Pakistan after the Indian government freezes its assets worth $676 million’ is completely false and baseless.”