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Was Ayushman Kaul of Tek Fog fame behind the DFR Lab report that wanted to censor Hindu nationalists on Twitter

Ayushman Kaul was working as South Asia Research Analyst at the Digital Forensic Research Lab from April 2019 to January 2022, during the period when DFR Lab asked Twitter to censor around 40,000 accounts

On Thursday (March 2), a new tranche of ‘Twitter Files’ was released, which revealed how the US-based Digital Forensic Research (DFR) Lab wanted to censor Twitter handles, allegedly associated with ‘Hindu nationalism’, and particularly with the BJP.

An analyst named Andy Carvin wrote to top Twitter executives on June 8, 2021, “Hi guys. Attached you will find… around 40k Twitter accounts that our researchers suspect are engaging in inauthentic behaviour… and Hindu nationalism more broadly.”

The DFR Lab analyst flagged over 40,000 accounts, claiming that they were paid employees/ unpaid volunteers of India’s largest party, namely, the BJP.

Opindia had found that at least 66 prominent and verified Indian Twitter handles were sent by US-funded Digital Forensic Research (DFR) Lab to the top executives of the social media giant for censorship. And the reason cited by the organisation was that they were connected to the BJP and the cause of Hindu Nationalism.

Interestingly, the timing of the internal communications coincides with the tenure of a controversial figure named Ayuhsman Kaul as the South Asia research analyst of DFRLab. According to his LinkedIn Profile, Ayushman Kaul was working as South Asia Research Analyst at the Digital Forensic Research Lab from April 2019 to January 2022, where he worked on “Monitoring disinformation, influence operations and hostile interference in the regional information environment. Particular focus on intersection of security, democracy and cyber space.”

Screengrab of the LinkedIn profile of Ayushman Kaul

This has left social media users speculating whether he was the one behind preparing the list of Twitter handles allegedly linked to Hindu Nationalism and the ruling BJP dispensation.

Popular Twitter user, Alok Bhat, informed, “Most likely it was based on the work done by Ayushman Kaul and released by DFR a few days prior to sending of this email.”

It must be mentioned that in May 2021 (two months before the Twitter email exchange), Kaul published a Medium blog post alleging the role of a Toronto-based PR firm in supposedly promoting narratives supporting the Modi government.

Popular Twitter handle ‘The Hawk Eye’ also questioned the role of Ayushman Kaul in creating a hit list of BJP supporters and Hindu nationalists for the Digital Forensic Research (DFR) Lab.

Ayushman Kaul and the malicious Tek Fog story

Ayushman Kaul is a senior analyst at Logically.ai, a dubious website that has been involved in the anti-India narrative. Based out of London, Kaul had collaborated with The Wire on many tech-related projects, including the one on Tek Fog, a dubious, non-existent app, in January 2022, along with Devesh Kumar, the man behind the fake Meta story published on Wire.

During Tek Fog reporting, Ayushman and Devesh did ‘Ask Me Anything (also called AMA)’ sessions on YouTube and Reddit to answer questions about the reports. Those AMA sessions are still available to check.

Kaul has contributed to multiple stories on The Wire such as “What the SOS Tweets Tell us About the Second Wave of COVID-19”, “Tek Fog: An App With BJP Footprints for Cyber Troops to Automate Hate, Manipulate Trends”, and “Anonymous Complainant Targeting Zubair Tweet Linked to Tek Fog App, BJYM Leader in Gujarat”.

In fact, Devesh and Kaul along with The Wire’s Naomi Barton had claimed how Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was ‘attacked’ online using Tek Fog, a super app which does not exist as evidenced later. The Wire had to withdraw all these stories.

In November 2022, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a report citing the ‘dubious’ Tek Fog allegation as an example of a lack of religious freedom in India. 

Ayushman Kaul, as per his LinkedIn account, now works as a Senior Analyst at Logically. He joined the company in January 2022. In May last year, OpIndia explained how Logically was involved in sponsoring an anti-India stunt event where Rahul Gandhi was one of the guest speakers. 

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Searched termsAyushman Kaul Tek fog
OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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