Online attack from NCR used to Spread hatred, create communal tension in favour of (ex)prez Zumba
It is often said on social media that world powers like the USA create disturbances in India to ensure that it remains a weak state. But no one talks about India destabilizing world countries. Now it emerges that our very own backyard, Noida, was used to create chaos in countries like South Africa.
In Sector 8, a nondescript company office was used to churn out false information on social media and news sites to racially divide South Africa. Tech firms in Noida (also in Sector 63) worked for months to build an online network of misinformation for inciting racial tension and influencing the political discourse in faraway South Africa.
An investigation conducted by Shashank Shekhar (DB Post) reveals that Noida-based tech firms built up an online network in favour of Jacob Zuma, former president of South Africa to influence their elections.
Inciting racial tension in South Africa
Tech-firms in Noida hired a team of 25-35 people, including journalists, writers, social media managers, graphic designers to work as political writers and social media managers. They were made to sign a secrecy clause so as to not disclose their client’s name. Through their online campaigns, these tech firms allegedly tried to inflame racial tension in South Africa. And the principal architects of the fake news campaign? A trio of Indian businessmen – the Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
The Gupta brothers have been accused of influence-peddling and swaying the appointment of cabinet ministers by South Africa’s top anti-corruption watchdog. They were alleged to be so influential in the Zuma regime, that some of the public referred to the group as the “Zupta government.”
On February 14, this year, Zuma stepped down as president of South Africa. The probe against the Gupta family in South Africa is on even as it continues to evade local law-enforcement agencies and Parliamentary inquiries, despite being summoned to appear before them.
Fake news sites attacked authentic news sources in SA
Shashank contacted over a dozen employees of these fake news factories, some of whom, on conditions of anonymity, revealed that several fake news websites were created to attack legitimate news sources in South Africa. Noida’s Sector 8-based firm operated two websites — wmcleaks.com and wmcscams.com, which are not-functional currently. The role of another firm in Sector 63 has also come into focus, but the writer has not been able to establish its authenticity despite repeated attempts.
The focus of the fake news campaign was ‘white monopoly capital’ (WMC) – a highly toxic narrative that aimed to create racial disharmony by falsely claiming that South African economy is still dominated by white-owned businesses. Hundreds of fake social media profiles were created to connect with locals, which shared links to these websites.
Racial narrative given to news items
“The idea behind our work was to divert attention from the corruption claims being made against the Gupta family and their close relationship to Zuma, by putting all the blame on white industrialists who were against the president,” said a former employee.
An insider also revealed to DB Post that all employees were asked to read every news piece that appeared in South African media and then re-write the content to make it favourable for both Zuma and the Guptas. All positive news items were given a racial narrative.
These toxic posts were retweeted and circulated by hundreds of fake profiles of South Africans and an army of bot accounts. “We were asked to create fake social media profiles of South African nationals using their pictures, names, and details,” said another employee.
The fake news campaign project of these Noida-based firms came to a close once Zuma resigned as president.
Same Google Analytics ID for most websites
An in-depth investigation revealed that there were several other websites which were created around April 2017 and operated till December 2017, till ANC’s elective conference.
Interestingly, all these websites operated during the same time frame and had traffic from South Africa and India. A source code search proved most of the sites had the same Google Analytics ID – meaning they were run by just one person.