Worldwide Indian propaganda network found operating in NZ

A worldwide pro-Indian propaganda network has been discovered running fake news websites in New Zealand.

EU Disinfo Lab, a non-profit organisation based in Brussels, says the network publishes content on at least 265 different sites - often adopting the name of a former newspaper to appear legitimate, or outright stealing the name of an existing media outlet.

They republish syndicated content, mixed with "a large number of articles and op-eds related to minorities in Pakistan as well as other India-related matters", according to EU Disinfo Lab.

In New Zealand, three sites have been linked to the network - all of them named after defunct newspapers.

Northotagotimes.com takes its name from a paper that shut up shop in 1932; thenewzealandtablet.com is named after a Catholic periodical that closed in 1996; and thewellingtonindependent.com has adopted the name of a paper that closed down in 1874.

None of the sites publish anything remotely resembling New Zealand news, despite thier names. Instead, they're a mix of North Korean press releases and international newswire content often with headlines that barely resemble English ("Trump will visit the shooting case sadly El Paso sent a welcome voice" one such example).

The NZ-based sites.
The NZ-based sites. Photo credit: Newshub.

EU Disinfo Lab found the sites are registered to the same address as a think tank which invited right-wing members of the European Parliament to the disputed region of Kashmir in October

The purpose of the network, the NGO said, is to "add several layers of media outlets that quote and republish one another, making it harder for the reader to trace the manipulation" and game search engines, making it appear the propaganda is being widely reported and supported.

Many of the sites also had Twitter accounts, which as of Monday appears to have been shut down. 

Executive director Alexandre Alaphilippe told Turkish news channel TRT World they hadn't uncovered any confirmed links between the network and the Indian government, however.

 

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