PTI launches innovative Fake News campaign through Facebook for catering European Market

PTI launches innovative Fake News campaign through Facebook for catering European Market

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

The blockade of X formally known as Twitter in Pakistan is still in the news and in April 2024, social media platform X said it would work with Pakistan’s government “to understand its concerns” after authorities insisted an ongoing two-month ban was based on security grounds.

   

“We continue to work with the Pakistani Government to understand their concerns,” X’s Global Government Affairs team posted, in their first comments since the site was disrupted. The Interior Ministry of Pakistan said X was blocked on security grounds.

It is very strange that X still wants “to understand its (Pakistan’s government) concerns” although almost every user of X in Pakistan knows that thousands of fake accounts on X have been fanning hatred against Pakistan and against state institutions including the Judiciary, the Pakistan Army, and the Parliament. This statement of X looks so innocent and ignorant as well.  There are many actors paid and some of them may be unpaid who are busy spreading hatred against Pakistan on social media platforms and they are not happy that one of their playgrounds is closed and can only be accessed through VPN. Therefore, they have shifted their teams to other playgrounds –like Facebook, Tik Tok and Instagram.

The phenomenon of Fake News is linked with the post-Truth Era and social media platforms like YouTube, X, Facebook, and TikTok are some of the leading sources for spreading disinformation, hate, chaos, deep fake, cheap fake, and almost every kind of genre of untrue news. These platforms practically allow social miscreants to hide their real identities and use fake identities to spread hate and chaos among users.

just for an example this fake ID is using information of Pakistan Army in contact information of Facebook page but no action has ever been taken against such accounts
Just for example, this fake ID uses the information of the Pakistan Army including the ISPR website and telephone number in the “Contact information” section of this Facebook that is actually a Facebook. Using ISPR information this page is one of the leading pages abusing the Pakistan Army. Facebook has taken no action so far for this theft of the identity of the Pakistan Army

Just for example, this fake ID uses the information of the Pakistan Army including the ISPR website and telephone number in the “Contact information” section of this Facebook that is actually a Facebook. Using ISPR information this page is one of the leading pages abusing the Pakistan Army. Facebook has taken no action so far for this theft of the identity of the Pakistan Arm.

this is using fake ID of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) & Founder at Bitsym while there is someone else who is real CEO of this company
this is using a fake ID of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) & Founder at Bitsym while there is someone else who is the real CEO of this company

This is using the fake ID of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) & Founder at (name withheld) while there is someone else who is the real CEO of this company

Shifting X playground to Facebook Playground

There are thousands of such PTI keyboard warriors abusing and cursing the state of Pakistan. Around 50 accounts out of 1,500 were taken as sample data who appeared instantly on Facebook pages in Europe and all 50 were found using Fake Identities. These accounts use so objectionable language and graphics against Pakistan and the Pakistan Army that sharing their content or links is inappropriate.

4-5% of active accounts on Facebook are fake; that equates to between 103.6 million to and 129.5 million accounts

Giving samples and examples can be an unending story because thousands of adversaries of Pakistan repost material provided by PTI Fake News Campaigners against Pakistan as a base material for elaborate malicious plots.

The number of Facebook pages having fake identities was in billion but during the latter quarter of 2022, 1.3 billion fake Facebook accounts were identified and removed and this process is still going on

Grace McKenzie is a final year PhD Psychology researcher at Lancaster University who has done academic research titled Hiding Plain Site‘ over fake identities as her thesis investigates human judgment of online deception. According to her work, (as of January 2023), 4.76 billion (59.4%) of the world’s population use social media. Facebook, the largest platform worldwide with 2.59 billion users estimates that 4-5% of active accounts on Facebook are fake; that equates to between 103.6 million to 129.5 million accounts. This number was in billion before but during the latter quarter of 2022, 1.3 billion fake Facebook accounts were identified and removed and this process is still going on. She indicates that fake profiles are obviously problematic as they continue to spread misinformation and pose a threat to platform users.

Another research conducted by Katharina Krombholz, Dieter Merkl (TU Wien), and Edgar Weippl from the University of Vienna titled ‘Fake identities in social media: A case study on the sustainability of the Facebook business model’ confirms the potential of social networks is often misused by malicious users that use fake identities.

The research findings show that while many Facebook users provide partially fake data in their user profiles, some profiles do not even represent a person who exists in real life. Such profiles are sometimes even used to create an artificial audience for developing public opinion. This information would be useful for readers to understand what PTI is now doing at Facebook.

Buying Fake Identities from the European Market

According to some responsible experts who are reviewing PTI’s model of Fake News campaigns on Facebook, PTI is extensively creating fake identities and even buying already created fake identities in European countries for their indigenous reach to European users.  Since money is not PTI’s problem being funded from abroad, heavy buying of fake identities has been observed from the European market.

What is innovative in PTI’s Facebook Campaign?

Since European consumers from South Asia read and understand the Urdu language but are educated consumers so blunt and cheaper propaganda is not used through these fake identities rather these anti-Pakistan campaigns are catchy in graphics and content and provide verificatory news engagement opportunities to the consumer in order to further elaborate and spread it. PTI always uses verificatory news because it provides a margin for extensive anti-subject debate and does not bear the burden of verifiability. Since European consumers were really influenced by the election campaign of US former President Trump and a filter bubble for such echo chamber is already alive in social media platforms PTI is also using the same to reach and attract the maximum public living in North America and European countries and this filter bubble and echo chamber is based on the idea of the post-truth era. The concept of post-truth has been on the world’s agenda since 2016 during the US presidential elections and used by populist leaders such as Donald Trump.

The emergence of populist leaders (like Trump and Imran Khan) is a product of the post-truth era when appearance substituted being and the old-fashioned character-building became redundant mainly because old norms were heavily discarded and the rhetoric of “my truth and your truth” replaced the universal truths.

Pakistan was affected by this infodemic precisely after 2018 when Imran Khan came into power negating all conventional norms. He skillfully replaces his being with his appearance, like actants switching personal conduct according to populist belief and demand.

A layman usually gets confused between fake and false news. False is untrue and fake is when reality undergoes a treatment plan. In the fake news, senders instead of presenting the reality to the Receiver, want to reshape this reality according to their ideology/requirements and then present it to the Receiver. This process depends upon two things; a grain of truth and exploitation of emotions. The construction/reshaping of reality can be through beliefs or emotions. In such ways, the recipient is tried to be persuaded, and thus behavioral change is achieved. And today we are witnessing the aftermath in the form of behavioral change of a fraction of affected victims.

The campaign is based on Anti-subject

During this catastrophic campaign of fake news against Pakistan, all the textbook experimentation of propaganda is being executed creating an echo chamber of anti-subject. The actual issue and event have always been presented by putting the anti-subject in the foreground. Whatever the news is they always present it with a slant always tilted toward the anti-Pakistan stance. The idea that the anti-subject does not know the truth that we know and believe and is trying to destroy it is the main theme of post-truth discourse. For the European market, the PTI campaign on Facebook tries to create a particular perception in the recipient purposefully by spreading conspiracy theories, deception, nonsense, and ignorance. Trump promoted the same model during his elections and it is not the transmission of the truth but the persuasion of presenting real or fake news in an orderly manner. Fake news is believable and the public, who is the recipient of the information that is told by transforming the truth into fiction in the form of a narrative, will experience a dilemma between reality and post-truth information.

So what fake news does is create an alternative reality because available truth is not a generally accepted, always valid reality. This concept indicates a reorganization of that reality in cases where generally accepted objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than public appeals. In other words, “false reality” presented to the Receiver emerges next to the actual reality. The post-truth refers to situations where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appealing to emotions and personal views. In other words, the verifiable perception of reality in the post-truth era will be a secondary factor in the formation of meaning, which is described by sensations, emotions, and passions.

Post-truth, the distorted presentation of the truth is about beliefs on the one hand and emotional impulses on the other. In an academic paper titled ‘Semiotics and political discourse in the post-truth era‘, the authors Betül Çanakpınar*, Murat Kalelioğlu and V. Doğan Günay indicate that while the sender wants to convince, he also wants the receiver to believe (convincing). In the emotional sense, perhaps the person does not want to know the truth as it is but wants to hear and know it in a way that pleases him. Mostly, the Sender creates a virtual identity in society as a morally pure, clean, sincere identity against the corrupt side of the social system.

PTI is investing a huge amount in spreading fake news through social media platforms having the privilege and luxury to afford fake news experts. However, at the receiving end, a layman who can’t even differentiate ‘fake news’ from ‘false news’ consumes a well-crafted fake message as a reality.

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