A recently published research by Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) has revealed that Khalistani extremists are using an army of bots or fake Twitter accounts to promote acts of vandalism and violence in Australia against Indians and the Indian government establishment.
NCRI is known to produce “independent, data-driven, and evidence-based series of reports” regarding the spread of hostile ideological content worldwide says Khalistanis are also using evasive tactics to avoid Australian authorities.
Since January 2023, NCRI found 359 active accounts that worked in networks of 20 to 50 accounts. These Twitter accounts were used to promote violent messages or videos often featuring the founder of ‘Sikhs for Justice,’ an organisation banned in India.
Sarah L. Gates, a Brisbane-based activist and academic, pointed to this issue of automated Khalistani Twitter bots attacking Indian-Australian journalists.
Ms Gates says she monitored Khalistan’s automated bot farms for three months:
“Hindu Human Rights Australasia monitored Khalistan troll and bot farms for three months, reporting content to authorities. HHR raised concern that Sikhs For Justice mobilised bots to revictimise targets of hate crime, forcing the community to view temple attacks and threats thousands of times via mentions.”
She also pointed out how Twitter bot mass was used to spread hate videos targeting The Australia Today team.
Each account would tweet the same violent message dozens of times, tagging different journalists and other public figures to build visibility.
Based on the visualization, NCRI notes that The Australia’s Today’s editor-in-chief Jitarth Bharadwaj was targeted and tagged 19,000 times within a week by these Twitter bots that indulged in identical messaging.
Tweets by Khalistani extremists, on the behest of SFJ, captured by the NCRI researchers urge protesters to gather or take unspecified direct action against strategic targets inside India as well as facilities abroad such as at the Indian Consulates and Hindu temples in Australia.
Khalistanis post and soon delete tweets promoting violence, avoid suspensions by calling a bomb just a “device”, and ask followers to bring in the “political death” of Indian leaders rather than asking for actual assassination.
Jack Donohue, chief operating officer at the NCRI and a former head of cyber intelligence at the New York Police Department, told Washington Post:
“When you look at the escalation and the intensity of the rhetoric, and how that precedes the events that take place in the real world that result in vandalism or violence, that’s where the concern is!”
Further, NCRI has pointed its finger straight at the government of Pakistan from where the Khalistanis are getting significant support. They identified more than 20 percent of the accounts as part of the Twitter networks claim to be located inside Pakistan.
The NCRI observed:
“I“The fact that this network of self-identified Pakistani accounts amplifies attacks against Hindu houses of worship, agitates for terror and attacks Indian consulates, aligns well with Pakistani strategic interests.”
It also notes that despite its efforts to cut off automated bots that promote violence, Twitter has been helpless against Khalistani extremists’ violent content and action.
“Pro-Khalistan organizations have been responsible for multiple vandalisms throughout the years
against Hindu temples and Indian government buildings. In 2019, Khalistani organizations
protested outside the Indian High Commission in London and attacked Indians with swords.”
Twitter has acted against many Khalistani accounts – suspending some and restricting many. However, NCRI notes that the Khalistani extremists and Pakistani supporters behind these accounts have returned with “slightly altered names.”
NCRI has shared its report first with the local media and law enforcement in cities with likely targets.
NOTE: This news story has been updated by the Editor after receiving the published copy of NCRI report.