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Terror targeted through social media sites? Censorship and propaganda reach a new level on Reddit India

As early Redditors would remember, Reddit India was mysteriously created the same person who created Reddit Pakistan - u/qgyh2.

Reddit Inc. is an American social media company and is among the top social media networks across the world. After Facebook and Twitter, Reddit has over the years attracted the most number of users and is around the 3rd to 5th most used social networking sites in terms of unique visitors, and enjoys significant userbase in India too. Reddit India, a forum within Reddit designed to discuss all topics related to India has always been a strange place. For a discussion board that was supposedly created to discuss India, one could often read straight up abuse of India and her culture. Much of the blame has been assigned to the moderators of r/India and in particular their track record of censorship.

As early Redditors would remember, Reddit India was mysteriously created the same person who created Reddit Pakistan – u/qgyh2. (Source: r/India in 2012, r/Pakistan in 2012 – The first name in the moderator list was the creator of the sub) However, this person mysteriously disappeared around 8 months back, only to be replaced by much more sinister set of moderators on r/India. And around 2 months back, Reddit had an investment of over $200 mn, from none other than the Chinese censorship major – Tencent. Things have not quite been the same, since then.

Recently a whole host of readers have taken to other forums to publicly complain about the anti-India and pro-Pakistan narratives being dished out on r/India.

One of the readers u/h0ysala had noticed a discussion where a map that was posted was incorrect with what was officially denoted as boundaries by India’s MEA. On letting other readers know that the boundaries were incorrect, u/h0ysala was simply banned with a message “We dont want Bhakts!”

u/h0ysala gets banned for posting the correct map!

In another post, a reader complains that the moderators of r/India have deleted all the content that exposed how anarchy was prevalent in West Bengal!

Just today, yet another reader u/HR12India got mercilessly attacked and banned by the moderators of r/India. Why? Because he had commented something that praised India on another sub! For which the moderators of r/India told them they have the right to not allow anyone who speaks in favour of India!

User banned by r/India

That was it. No warning, no discussion, speaking good things about India meant you were not welcome to post in r/India.

At this rate, one really wonders what is the purpose of r/India, and why it is called r/India if speaking about India’s success was not welcome there!

The purpose however is not that hard to see; for users who have been on reddit for some time only know too well how the moderators of r/India have suppressed pro-India content and instead have blatantly promoted pro-Pakistan content, anti-Hindu propaganda. Many have feared this sub is controlled by either Pakistan agents, or given Tencent’s control of Reddit, Chinese agents. Seeing the propaganda spread on r/India, both don’t seem far fetched.

For example, another user claims that Prime Minster of India Shri Narendra Modi was behind the cowardly Pulwama attacks were over 40 brave Indian Jawaans were martyred by Pakistan based terrorists. In a post titled “Say whatever you want. But I believe that Modi is behind all this“, he makes his wild allegations. This post was never removed or censored by the moderators. Instead it is still up, despite the fact that the person who posted this makes no logical arguments whatsoever, nor provides any facts to back up his claim.

One of the persons replying to this post, u/Daliya_La_ma says “Modi may or may not be behind it but Modi is the biggest beneficiary of this rise in tension and possible subsequent conflict.” Many have suspected this user of being a Pakistan sympathiser. He certainly fits the bill – his account was created only around a month back on14th Jan 2019, right around the time the Chinese company Tencent invested millions into reddit. 

Another user u/xinamongolic replies on the same post that “I have no doubt about it. It all looks organised.” On checking this user’s profile, his account was only created on 9th February 2019 and almost all of his posts are biased against India. Another comment of this same user “xinamongolic” says “Not politicians, but Terrorists and Goondas who spew hatred and create Riots and Murders, as in the BJP party. They are happy this cuz happened, that’s what they needed to boost in the polls.”

Surprisingly, this comment has around 20 upvotes, which indicates somehow 20 people like this comment.

Almost all of this user xinomongolic comments are filled with generic hate and very little substance. In another place he says “Why not? Is there a strict rule that BJP cannot go at any lengths to win elections? They Riot, Murders, use EVM machines, Hate speeches, polarisation and whatever shit you can imagine BJP are Masters in it.”

At this point, another reader u/PB49 replies to him that “You are out of touch with reality if you believe this shit lmao”, which again suspiciously downvoted.

This kind of polarised comments along with suspicious voting patterns leave many regular users of reddit bewildered.

In yet another blatant attempt at censorship, a recent post by u/kashmiriiprincess about the Freedom in the World 2019 report by Freedom House was censored within 15 minutes. The reason? The report showed that India had a better ranking than Pakistan (duh) and surprisingly, even Indian state of Kashmir had a higher ranking than the whole of Pakistan.

Thankfully, we managed to obtain a screenshot of the post:

Report censored within 15 minutes

Its extremely suspicious why the moderators of an Indian forum would remove a post that showcased India has better freedom ratings than Pakistan. Unless of course, the moderator’s priorities lies elsewhere.

Considering all the shady and dubious censorship and propaganda, we can see that at one end, we have people posting positive comments about India who seem to get censored and banned.

At other end, comments that have no basis or facts, seems to get promoted highly if they are against India. Baseless allegations are not removed. All of this, on a forum called r/India.

In fact, many users have brought this suspicious manipulation to the attention of the CEO of Reddit Inc, Steve Huffman.

Very recently, just 5 days back, one user brought to Steve’s attention in graphic detail all the moderation abuse, censorship and propaganda on r/India, including incidents of political bias and apprehensions of Pakistani or Chinese takeover over the moderator accounts. His post got over 100+ upvotes, thus symbolising a large portion of reddit users who agreed with what was said here. Steve’s response? He doesn’t even acknowledge the post!

On the same post, yet another user brought this to Steve’s attention, again to no avail. This was yet again not even acknowledged! Despite the fact that Steve had replied to several comments on the page, he choose to not even acknowledge the pertinent questions relating to moderation abuse on r/India, asked by 2 different users.

At this point, it would not be out of order to conclude that the Reddit CEO is both well aware complicit in this systematic abuse of moderation and publishing of select narratives on a sub that is designed to discuss all aspects of India. As to why this is happening, the truth remains elusive. Best guesses include both Pakistani or Chinese take over, in an attempt to manipulate Indian social media users with elections right around the corner.

Most readers of reddit and citizens of India would, at this point,  request the Indian authorities and law enforcement agencies to take a note of this systematic abuse on such a prominent social media network. Recently, Twitter was hauled in front of the Parliamentary Committee to answer charges of shadow banning selective content, while exhibiting a complete lack of transparency. A similar approach would be appreciated for Reddit Inc as well.

Simultaneously, agencies such as CBI, NIA and State Government cyber crime task forces could also take cognizance of the narratives being stitched together on this site that are patently anti-Indian in nature. In fact it would be pertinent to investigate the accounts posting constant hate and terrorism related content on reddit, to identify if they have any ties with known terror organisations. Over the past week, several anti-social comments have been left across social media by people harbouring terror thoughts against India, and state police across the country have been cracking down on these crimes under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 as well as Sections 120(B), 123, 504, 505 and 507 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

A solution to the reddit problem would help in bringing much needed transparency in one of the top social networks that Indians use today.

Disclaimer: This is the first part of several articles that expose a systematic link between moderators of r/India and anti-national agents and miscreants. The writer is a user of reddit, and was banned from r/India for stating that “India has better space program than several other countries”. The opaque moderation and false narratives being promoted on r/India are documented in detail on r/IndiaDiscussion. The writer suggests other subs such as r/IndiaNews and r/IndiaSpeaks which have much more transparent moderation structure including audit logs of moderator actions.

Legal Note: Reddit being a company registered in United States Of America notifies that it is not bound by laws of India. The writer strongly disagrees with this, as the Information Technology Act and Rules of India mandate every social media company operating in India to follow Indian laws. Reddit is also legally bound to reveal information of perpetrators of crime through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between India and the United States of America, and Letters Rogatory can be facilitated via the Central Agencies Section of the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Law and Justice of the Government of India. The moderators of r/India have also created a twitter account @RedditIndia which is bound by the laws of India and is required to facilitate disclosure of information sought by any Indian investigative agency.

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