A Brussels-based NGO on Wednesday reported that over 265 fake local news websites in more than 65 countries across the world were being controlled by an "Indian influence network".
The report by the EU DisinfoLab, a non-profit that is "focused on researching and tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU", listed sites such as New York Morning Telegraph, The Dublin Gazette, and Times of Portugal and said they were "serving Indian governmental interests".
The report goes on to detail its investigation into the network "designed to influence the European Union and the United Nations by repeatedly criticising Pakistan".
Tying in the visit of 27 members of the EU parliament in October, the report mentions that it discovered a website, EP Today, which is a "self-proclaimed magazine for the European Parliament", publishing what it called "a large number of articles and op-eds related to minorities in Pakistan as well as other India-related matters".
BREAKING: We uncovered a worldwide network of 265 fake media outlets in 65 countries, targeting the US, Canada, Brussels, Geneva and many more, which all serve Indian lobbying interests. (1/9)
" EU DisinfoLab🇪🇺 (@DisinfoEU) November 13, 2019
"EU DisinfoLab quickly discovered that EP Today is managed by Indian stakeholders, with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the Srivastava Group. We also found that the IP address of the Srivastava Group is also home to the obscure online media 'New Delhi Times' and the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which are all based at the same address in New Delhi, India," the report further said.
The IINS was the NGO which had invited the 27 Members of European Parliament to visit Kashmir and to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This was the first foreign delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August and was ostensibly organised to have the largely right-wing politicians review the situation on-ground in the restive region.
The report also analysed the motive behind the creation of such fake news outlets and said listed three possibilities: "To influence global institutions and elected representatives with coverage of specific events and demonstrations; to provide NGOs with useful press material to reinforce their credibility and thus be impactful.
"To add several layers of media outlets that quote and republish one another, making it harder for the reader to trace the manipulation, and in turn (sometimes) offer a 'mirage' of international support; to influence public perceptions on Pakistan by multiplying iterations of the same content available on search engines," it added.