News Brief

India Pakistan Disinformation War Boils Over Again

The online battle between India and Pakistan about the truth behind their recent surge of hostilities is boiling over again.

On Tuesday, the Pakistan Navy posted a video to Facebook that claimed to show an Indian submarine entering Pakistani waters, saying “the Indian Navy has deviously deployed its submarines against Pakistan in line with Indian nefarious designs.”

India’s Ministry of Defense didn’t deny that assertion, and government supporters put forward their own claims: that the Pakistanis were engaged in disinformation to muddy the water about the facts of the day.

In its own statement to the press, the Indian armed forces said “Over the past several days, we have witnessed Pakistan indulging in false propaganda and spread of misinformation.”

Twitter meanwhile went wild. Users quickly pointed out the video was strikingly similar to a 2016 naval video published by Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language publication. India Today then claimed the video was an “old video, overlaid with graphics to look like an authentic one.”

The latest contretemps comes in the wake of last month’s military escalations between the two nuclear foes. Amid the tension, citizens of both countries have been subjected to a slew of misleading stories.

Following a suicide bomb attack claimed by Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14, Indian jets launched an attack on Pakistan on what it claimed to be a JeM training camp on February 26. During a press conference, the Indian Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale claimed  “a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, trainers, senior commanders, and groups of jihadis who were being trained for Fidayeen action were eliminated.”

Air Vice Marshal R.G.K Kapoor then appeared to backtrack on this claim, saying it was “premature” to discuss the number of casualties from the attack.

What followed was a contradictory range of images emerging from the region. Reuters reporter Asif Shazad visited the affected area and wrote this: “On the wooded slopes above Jaba, villagers pointed to four bomb craters and some splintered trees, but could see little other impact from the series of explosions that blasted them awake.”

Other pictures appeared to show utter devastation. But Monday Agence France-Presse debunked Facebook images claiming to show the catastrophic aftermath of the strikes, when in fact they were AFP images from the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

This is the latest in a string of fake stories published to social media surrounding the attacks. A major disinformation incident involved a video from a Facebook page called Pak Army, that claimed to show a blood-soaked pilot that it claimed was an Indian air force officer captured by Pakistani forces. Fact checkers revealed the video was actually of a man injured in an Indian airshow last month. Pak Army is a source that uses a misleading Twitter handle @ArmyPakistanOfficial.