Twitter suspends ISI’s fake account being used to spread fake news against India in Gulf countries

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Twitter has suspended a fake account which was used by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to spread false news about India in the Gulf states. The suspended Twitter account is @idanialusaf, it was impersonating Noura bint Faisal, a princess of Saudi Arabia by creating a fake ID named @NouraAlSaud and was involved in anti-India propaganda operated from Pakistan.

Twitter suspends an account if it has been reported as violating the micro-blogging platform’s rules surrounding abuse. The account can be suspended on it is indulges in abusive behaviour, like sending threats to others or impersonating other accounts.

Indian security agencies say ISI has been spreading hatred against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gulf countries by using several fake accounts on social media platforms. The intelligence agencies have prepared a dossier of Pakistan’s involvement in activities of spreading anti-India messages through fake or hacked accounts on social media.

Investigators revealed that fake accounts are being created in the name of royal family members of Gulf countries to spread hatred about India.

This revelation comes after another twitter account ID @pak_fauj was found to have changed its name to Mona bint Fahd al Said @SayyidaMona a member of the Oman royal family. This account has also been used to spread anti-India propaganda.

Several anti-India tweets on ties between India and the Gulf were made from this twitter handle which was retweeted by many including Pakistani media personnel.

The dossier prepared by security agencies and accessed by Zee News reveals that hundreds of such Twitter accounts have been used to spread hatred against India and are being operated from Pakistan, but have assumed identities of persons from Gulf nations to push the narrative that there is a backlash against Indian government in Gulf.

An Indian security official said, “How ISI executed the fake news campaign; it first dug out old tweets put out by Indians in Gulf with negative references to Muslims and through ISI handles popularised it. It adopted two methods for popularising- fake handles purportedly belonging to high profile people in Gulf like royal family and journalists.”

A cyber expert Jiten Jain said, “Interesting aspect was that those ISI handles that were claiming that they were India or Pakistan based, started showing themselves to be Gulf based to push the narrative that there is a backlash against Indian govt in Gulf. ISI is using name of royal families to spread hatred against India.”

The Gulf nations have been very appreciative of PM Modi’s efforts to reduce tension and bring stability in the region, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and the Pakistani spy agency is trying to create a divide.

Omani Princess Mona bint Fahd whose identity was used to create the fake profile issued a statement saying, “Friends, first of all I thank you for your concern to verify the offensive post published through an account impersonating me, which you are sure that I have no connection with it.”

She confirmed that her social media presence is restricted to two accounts. “With full trust in all of you in strengthening awareness among all regarding such activities, which are not acceptable to the Omani society, I confirm again that my presence in social media is restricted on the following accounts: @hhmonaalsaid   and @MonaFahad 13,” she said.

On Twitter, one can change their name, username and description but its history is not managed publicly. A handle, Pak Army (@pak_fauj) took advantage of this and changed its profile’s identity to that of a fake profile of Oman’s Princess. Many prominent people started retweeting its messages thinking it to be a genuine profile. It is likely that this profile was reported to Twitter, and to save itself from getting blocked the account added the word ‘parody’ in its bio. Twitter does not block parody accounts.

The Indian security agencies suspect that the ISI was behind the two hashtags – #ShameOnModi and #ChaosInIndia that was trending on Tuesday and Wednesday. A Pakistan-managed Twitter account had changed its handle name to pose as an Omani princess and tweeted anti-India material on Tuesday.

Interestingly, several old anti-India tweets from the same account, which has now been deleted, were also detected which indicated that the two Pakistani agencies – ISI and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – were operating it.

The ISI is alleged to be behind the propaganda running on social media platforms claiming that Muslims are not safe in India. It may be recalled that the ISI’s cyber cell used the same tactics during the Delhi riots to spread fear and hatred among the Indian Muslims and instigated them to join the jihad against India.