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Farm Laws: ‘Real Sikh’ Social Media Profiles Targeting Sikhs Exposed

Sikh names were used for fake profiles with the hashtag #RealSikh to support the farm laws.

Published
India
2 min read
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Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the three contentious farm laws will be repealed, a report by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) has exposed a network of social media profiles that were using fake personas on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to promote divisive narratives arguing that “real” Sikhs supported the Indian government over the farm laws.

The aim of the network, as per the report's author, Benjamin Strick, seems to have been to "alter perceptions on important issues around Sikh independence, human rights and values".

The BBC reported that there is no evidence linking the influence network directly with the Indian government.

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‘Sock-puppet’ Accounts

Strick further said, "The fake accounts do 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. The core network is supported by a large network of authentic accounts which primarily identify as Hindu nationalists."

Sikh names were used for the fake profiles, claiming to be "Real Sikhs" with the hashtags #RealSikh to support and #FakeSikh to discredit the varying political viewpoints regarding the farm laws which resulted in one of the biggest farmers' agitation in modern India.

Many of the accounts used profile pictures of celebrities, including actresses in the Punjabi film industry, BBC reported. These accounts most frequently discussed or posted on either the farmers' protests or the decades-old Khalistan independence movement.

Further, in an effort to delegitimize the farmers' protests, the accounts claimed that the protests had been hijacked by "Khalistani terrorists", similar to what the Indian government had said.

'Set Up at the Behest of the Government: BKU Leader

Jagjit Singh Dalewal, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, was quoted as saying, "We believe these accounts were set up at the behest of the government and it was done to set a narrative against the protests", BBC reported.

The accounts had thousands of followers, while posts from the network were liked and retweeted by verified accounts and even quoted on news sites.

After the report was shared with Meta and Twitter, the accounts were taken down for violating the companies' policies.

(With inputs from BBC.)

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