Pro-Russian Twitter accounts in India have been suspended for apparent “Coordinated inauthentic behavior” after posting messages supportive of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, the New York Times reported.
Twitter suspended more than 100 accounts following research published by Marc Owen Jones at Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa University and director Graham Brookie of the pro-NATO Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab.
The Times itself admitted, however, that “It was impossible to find hard evidence. [the accounts]You are part of a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion about the war” in Ukraine. The paper also pointed out that India’s government has maintained a neutral policy toward the war thus far – and a Twitter spokeswoman claimed the company was still investigating.
The platform acknowledged in a recent blog post that it has deleted 75,000 accounts for violation of their “Platform manipulation and Spam Policy” since the war in Ukraine began. Those accounts are not thought to “represents a targeted, coordinated campaign linked to a government agency.”
Jones highlighted alleged “suspicious behavior” among those Indian accounts promoting the Russian government’s view on the war, including accounts using stock photos in profiles and gaining plentiful likes and retweets despite few followers. They also had #IStandWithPutin as a hashtag.
It’s unclear how many of the accounts belonged to real people, but some of them most likely were real, Jones said.
“You can reach enough people to spread a message and real people will follow your lead.,” he told the Times.
Brookie noted the “Deep and long-lasting security and economic relations” between India and Russia, saying Moscow would be “Looking to India and other countries” to abstain from international efforts to isolate it.
After an Indian student was killed in Ukraine during the fighting earlier this month, some of the 20,000 Indian citizens struggling to escape were reportedly subjected to racism, as Ukrainians at the border refused to allow them on trains and buses headed for safety, telling them they would have to walk – reports that may have added fuel to anti-Ukrainian or pro-Russian sentiment in the country.
A group of Indians called the Hindu Sena march in New Delhi this month. They chant messages of support for Russia and a crowd of hundreds marched through it. Russia continues to buy most of the weapons it needs, so there is no need to attack a relationship that could be mutually beneficial.
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Twitter isn’t the only country that has banned accounts from India for inauthentic posts. In the months preceding the 2020 US election, for example, Facebook removed over 10,000 accounts and pages from 13 countries – including a multitude of then-president Donald Trump’s supporters – for just such behavior.
Facebook (now Meta), Twitter, and other major social media platforms have long worked hand in hand with highly politicized think tanks like the Atlantic Council, and Western news agencies, to help them fight “Information” online during elections and times of political upheaval.