Two Belgian media outlets discovered among hundreds fake news websites serving Indian interests
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    Two Belgian media outlets discovered among hundreds fake news websites serving Indian interests

    265 fake news outlets worldwide were discovered. Credit: EU DisinfoLab

    Two Belgian media outlets were discovered among hundreds of fake news websites worldwide that are used to serve Indian governmental interests.

    EU Disinfo Lab, an independent European Union NGO that aims to counter the spread of misinformation, discovered 265 coordinated fake local media outlets that serve Indian governmental interests, among which were two Belgian ones. The outlets are supposed to influence the EU and the UN to India’s advantage by repeatedly criticising Pakistan, according to the organisation.

    Most of the 265 websites are named after an extinct local newspaper, and republish content from several news agencies that all cover the same Indian-related demonstrations and events.

    The Belgian newspaper involved are two ‘zombie’ outlets, a term used to describe media outlets that used to exist and publish real content but were shut down. The fake news network now ‘revived’ their websites to further their own goals.

    The newspapers ‘le Communiste’ in Brussels and ‘Echos de la Chambre’, located in Marchienne-au-Pont have been discovered to be zombie outlets by EU DisinfoLab.

    This worldwide network of ‘news’ websites is supposed to influence international institutions and elected representatives with coverage of specific events and demonstrations, and provide NGOs with useful press material to reinforce their credibility.

    Additionally, the layers of media outlets quote and republish one another, making it more difficult to trace the manipulation. It also creates a “mirage” of international support for Indian causes, which can influence public perception on Pakistan.

    In October 2019, the European External Action Service revealed that the website of a self-proclaimed European Parliament magazine in Brussels had been re-publishing a lot of news directly from Russia Today and Voice of America, with a large number of articles related to minorities in Pakistan and other India-related matters.

    The website is managed by Indian stakeholders, with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the Srivastava Group, EU DisinfoLab discovered.

    The network serves lobbying interests, towards the EU and the UN. Digging further into the servers, IP addresses and Twitter accounts of the network, everything was related to 4newsagency.com, a self-described “synergy between 4 news agencies from Switzerland, Belgium, Thailand, and Abu Dhabi (UAE)”, with “teams located in 100 countries,” according to the DisinfoLab.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times