The EU DisinfoLab has discovered a groundbreaking and quite opprobrium incident exposing the largest disinformation spreading network against Pakistan.
According to them, the network was designed primarily to "discredit Pakistan internationally" and influence decision-making in favour of India at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and European Parliament, reports BBC.
The revelation came after EU DisinfoLab published an extensive report on Wednesday named "Indian Chronicles" citing the nitty gritty and detailed campaign from several Indian organisations on the period of fifteen long years.
"It is the largest network we have exposed," said Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU DisinfoLab.
"During the last 15 years, and even after being exposed last year, the fact that this network managed to operate so effectively shows the sophistication and the drive of the actors behind Indian Chronicles," he added.
They believe the network's purpose is to disseminate propaganda against India's neighbour and rival Pakistan.
There is no evidence the network is linked to India's government, but it relies heavily on amplifying content produced on fake media outlets with the help of Asian News International (ANI), India's largest wire service and a key focus of the investigation.
Last year, the researchers uncovered 265 pro-Indian sites operating across 65 countries, and traced them back to a Delhi-based Indian holding company, the Srivastava Group (SG)The report reveals that the operation, run by SG, is spread over at least 116 countries and has targeted members of the European Parliament and the United Nations, along with several other organisations, which were used to promote Indian interests and criticise Pakistan internationally.
Alaphilippe said, "You need more than a few computers to plan and sustain such an action."
The researchers cautioned against "definitively attributing Indian Chronicles to some specific actors such as Indian intelligence services" without further investigation.
"In Geneva, these think tanks and NGOs are in charge of lobbying, of organising demonstrations, speaking during press conferences and UN side-events, and they were often given the floor at the UN on behalf of the accredited organisations," the report says.
The effort from the Indian organisations went beyond explanations after the researchers found a particular NGO named Commission to Study the Organisation of Peace (CSOP) showed a dead Harvard Professor as their chairman on record. Prof Louis B Sohn, one of the 20th Century's leading international law scholars and a Harvard Law faculty member for 39 years - was listed under the name Louis Shon as a CSOP participant at the UNHRC session in 2007 and at a separate event in Washington DC in 2011.
The listings shocked the researchers because Prof Sohn died in 2006.
The investigation also shows there were several hundred pro-Indian interventions by the non-accredited NGOs, which were repeatedly given the floor at the UNHRC on behalf of the accredited organisations, pursuing the same agenda - "maligning Pakistan".
In March 2019, during the UNHRC's 40th session, United Schools International (USI), another UN-accredited organisation with direct links to SG, allowed its slot to be used by Yoana Barakova, a research analyst with an Amsterdam-based think-tank called the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).
Barakova spoke about "atrocities committed by Pakistan" during the session. She told the BBC that EFSAS was a partner with USI and she was "not responsible for organisational logistics". The BBC received no reply when it contacted the director of EFSAS, who also represented USI at the same session to criticise Pakistan.
The primary news agency re-packaging and boosting pro-India content related to SG appears to be ANI, established in 1971, which describes itself as "South Asia's leading multimedia news agency, with more than 100 bureaus in India, South Asia and across the globe".
Indian news media, especially broadcast media, thrive on content provided by ANI. ANI's news reports have found space in many mainstream Indian news outlets and publishers. Its content was further reproduced on more than 500 fake media websites across 95 countries, the researchers found
EU DisinfoLab found at least 13 instances of ANI re-publishing mostly anti-Pakistan and sometimes anti-China op-eds by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), originally published on EU Chronicle, one of the fake news sites linked to SG.