“I’ve never seen a network of this magnitude”, confides, stunned, a lecturer at the French Institute of Geopolitics, Kevin Limonier. To impress this specialist of disinformation and Russian internet shenanigans, the revelations of the Brussels NGO EU DisinfoLab, to which Les Jours had access, must show mischief on an uncommon scale. For Ben Nimmo, a recognised expert in disinformation and an investigator at Graphika, a social network analysis company, the “Indian Chronicles” reveal “a network of disinformation whose scale and impact is comparable to the Russian interference operation during the 2016 campaign in the United States”. It took months of investigation over more than a year for the NGO's sleuths to produce their report, published on 9 December. In a hundred or so pages they unveil the secrets of this sprawling disinformation effort which, for fifteen years, has been operating in both the European Parliament and at the UN in Geneva, with very concrete results.
A well-oiled information war-machine has been set up. It serves the interests of a nation that we hear relatively little about despite its continental size: India. The figures are impressive: hundreds of websites, dozens of puppet NGOs and hundreds of fake media outlets, all to serve the interests of New Delhi and India’s nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi.
At the heart of the spider's web, whose shape is still hard to make out, lies a consortium of Indian companies known as the Srivastava Group. On its website this conglomerate defines itself as "the fastest growing group in the country with interests in natural resources, clean energy, aerospace, consulting services, health, print media and publishing". It has already drawn attention by organising, through an NGO, a visit for more than 20 MEPs to Kashmir, a region of Pakistan contested by India. Many of the parliamentarians were from the far right (including Frenchman Thierry Mariani) and they will feature prominently in this series.
But behind the grand facade of its website, the group looks like an empty shell. As journalist Rohini Singh of the Indian news outlet The Wire notes, the Srivastava group does not seem to do genuine business and is home to many companies that appear to be dormant and with often extremely modest capital. Business may not be its forte, but Srivastaya excels in misinformation. The company was already singled out in an EU DisinfoLab report in late 2019. This revealed its involvement in a large disinformation network comprising at least 265 fake-news sites operating in some sixty countries, including France.
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Those revelations were aimed at the right people, since almost all the sites miraculously closed down in the wake of the report’s publication. But, with no reaction from au…