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Security agencies flag to central govt list of Indian influencers peddling pro-China propaganda, say they do so after taking money from CCP

The officials in the security establishment opine that it is all part of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) policy of shaping and disseminating 'favoured' narratives both internally and internationally through foreign social media influencers in adversarial countries such as India. It also aims to disprove media reporting and academic research, as well as to refute foreign official statements.

Indian security agencies have identified more than a dozen Indian social media influencers and vloggers who are allegedly pushing Chinese government narratives, posing a threat to India’s national security.

According to an IndiaToday report, a detailed list based on information obtained through intelligence inputs and continuous surveillance is being shared with the Central Government.

The security agencies are concerned that these influencers, who are purportedly driven by monetary gains, might pose a significant risk by contributing to a manipulative ecosystem managed by Chinese state agencies. They have a large following among the Indian youth, some even have, millions of followers. This makes their posts play a crucial role in shaping public opinion. Thus, it requires immediate attention and action.

The officials in the security establishment opine that it is all part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy of shaping and disseminating ‘favoured’ narratives both internally and internationally through foreign social media influencers in adversarial countries such as India. It also aims to disprove media reporting and academic research, as well as to refute foreign official statements.

The report citing security establishment sources states that Chinese propaganda on Indian social media influencers, including YouTubers, is on the rise and poses a threat to the way certain sections of Indian populations view China and its policies.

The security agencies say that some vloggers genuinely want to promote intercultural understanding, while others ‘play into the hands’ of China’s propaganda machinery. Stereotypes sustain a highly superficial and simplistic depiction of Indian life, reinforcing the Chinese public’s presumptions about Indians.

“Given their substantial following across multiple social media platforms, these influencers have the ability to shape narratives that could have implications for national security, particularly if they propagate misinformation or biased perspectives,” an official from the South Block told IndiaToday.

Notably, the Indian security officials have determined that the complication stems from the sponsorship arrangement, in which China covers the suspect vloggers’ expenditures while also granting them access to restricted areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet.

The YouTubers’ video mostly focuses on pro-China themes, including denying charges of genocide in Uyghur (Xinjiang), as well as projecting a positive perspective of the Chinese government in Xinjiang and Tibet. In positively highlighting these regions Indian vloggers help China counter Western notions. Moreover, similar pro-China activities were seen among international influencers active on Western social media networks.

The suspected Indian vloggers visit Xinjiang, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hotan and explore the life of Uyghurs there, visit their mosques, and interact with the local Uyghur Muslims and Tibetans. These videos aim to present a positive picture of the CCP and its governance in these regions, particularly in Xinjiang.

In December last year, it was reported that Meta had removed a network of 4789 China-based fake and misleading accounts as two major democracies India and the United States are set to hold elections. Meta’s “Adversarial Threat” report had stated that these fake accounts, posing as Americans and Indians, were actively involved in propagating misleading information about sensitive issues pertaining to US politics, US-China relations, and Indian politics.

A report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute titled: Singing From The CCP’s Songsheet states that since 2020, 156 Chinese state-controlled accounts have published approximately 556 Facebook posts and articles on the China Global Television Network (CGTN), Global Times, Xinhua News Agency, and China Daily websites, amplifying Xinjiang-related content from 14 influencer accounts.

Back in 2021, it was reported that hat China may have employed several foreign video bloggers to denounce negative coverage by the Western press on highly controversial subjects such as human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and the COVID pandemic. Names of British expatriates Barrie Jones, Jason Lightfoot and father-and-son duo Lee and Oli Barrett had come in peddling pro-China propaganda to counter the Western media criticism of China. Notably, the CCP has also been accused of expanding its influence over the Indian media.

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