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  • Writer's pictureCIR

Revealed: "Real Sikh" influence network pushing Indian nationalism

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

A coordinated influence operation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is using fake personas acting as influencers within the Sikh community to discredit the push for Sikh independence, label Sikh political interests as extremist, stoke cultural tensions within India and international communities, and promote Indian Government content.


The Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) investigation identified a core network of fake accounts that target other accounts supportive of Indian nationalism to spread and amplify the content and narratives generated by the core network. CIR’s report analyses the common profiles, content and tactics of the fake accounts which indicate their activity to be significantly coordinated.


The content produced by the network has endorsement from verified accounts and has breakouts on news and informational sites, where tweets from the core fake network are either linked to, or embedded in posts.


The report can be read here:

Analysis of the #RealSikh Network
.pdf
Download PDF • 5.54MB


The author of the report and CIR’s Director of Investigations, Benjamin Strick, said:


“Our research shows a coordinated effort to distort perceptions and discredit the push for Sikh independence, label Sikh political interests as extremist, stoke cultural tensions within India and international communities, and promote Indian Government content”.


“The network amplified its messaging on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram through a core network of accounts that used profile pictures stolen from celebrity social media accounts and used names common in Sikh communities to appear as legitimate members of the Sikh community.”


“The fake accounts did not show signs of automation, but rather appear to be human-operated, acting as ‘sock puppet’ accounts with the same personas replicated over multiple platforms and repeating the same content.”


Commenting on the report, CIR's Co-Founder and Executive Director Adam Rutland, said:


“The battle of narratives during the farmers protests in Delhi demonstrate that there is often more going on in social media than meets the eye. Today's report clearly shows concerning indications of information warfare against minorities in India."


"We will continue to hold a mirror up to governments and organisations who may seek to manipulate social media platforms to distort the picture of what is truly going on in their countries.”


CIR Investigator: Benjamin Strick Reviewer: Elise Thomas

Update: Actions by Social Media Platforms

Prior to publication this report was shared with teams from Twitter and Meta that specialise in threat intelligence and influence operations.


The platforms identified in this report where the fake network was visible have policies governing their use, specifically around platform manipulation and spam (as seen on Twitter) and inauthentic behaviour (as seen on Meta).


After reviewing the findings of this report, the accounts identified and analysed in this research have subsequently been suspended for violations of policies prohibiting platform manipulation and inauthentic behavior.



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5 Comments


russiahomeland23
Mar 26, 2023

glad you wrote a post about these bots. India media and government have used these tactics for years. These bots are all made 2020 and newer and use photos of actual people, post the same anti khalistan rhetoric. They post the same cartoon photos of anti sikh/khalistan things and really only post about these things. Thanks for bringing attention to this matter.

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jeffery
Dec 02, 2021

Sorry! don't agree to the viewpoint here. No where the Id's were promoting hatred. What harm were they causing. I could see most of the messages were statement that any proud countryman would make. Where is Pro Govt ? Linking them with farmer issue and labeling them as fake is not fair. Baseless reporting....

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David Morris
David Morris
Nov 24, 2021

I read this and read it again, there is no proven link to the Indian government running this. Nor is there any link to say these people were Sikhs OR were not Sikhs. Only thing that made social media companies take this down was because of patterns of copy and paste. Somewhat sensationalised.

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kushd198
kushd198
Nov 24, 2021

wow....turns out these Soviet-era operations still exist.

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David Morris
David Morris
Nov 24, 2021
Replying to

Wait till you see the Pakistani accounts called "Mr Singh" and "Mr Patel"

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