Sunday, August 19
File under Cyberwar: Pakistan and the 'Myanmar/Assam mass atrocities' and 'Post-Ramadan mass attacks on Indians' hoaxes
This situation is so goddamned tangled, but it serves as a horrific cautionary tale about manipulation of internet and mobile phone technologies.
As to the Pakistan angle. Not all the hoax images of atrocities against Muslims have been traced to Pakistan. And the originator of the hoax images hasn't yet been identified. But the Indian government has traced the internet rumors of planned attacks in India (in retaliation for images of widescale atrocities in Assam and Myanmar that were a hoax!) to Pakistan, and is lodging a formal protest with Pakistan's government.
To start somewhere near the beginning of this madness. From B Raman's August 18 analysis:
1. The post-Assam incidents in the rest of India had overt and covert dimensions.
2. The overt dimension related to the protests by groups of Muslims against the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar and Assam which were seen in the Azad Maidan of Mumbai on August 5, 2012, and in Lucknow on August 17, 2012.
These protests were triggered off by exaggerated accounts of the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar and Assam. These exaggerated accounts were disseminated with the help of morphed images through web sites of Islamic fundamentalist organisations, some of them located in Pakistan.
The fact that these organisations in Pakistan such as the Jamaat-e-Islami had them uploaded in their web sites does not necessarily mean they had produced them.
3. Some of the visuals uploaded in many web sites of different organisations had inter alia, morphed images of two incidents: the large number of dead bodies recovered after an earthquake in the Sichuan province of China some years ago, and public protests by the opponents of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok in 2009.
The appearance of similar or same morphed images in several websites across the region indicated a common source of the production of these visuals.
This common source has not so far been identified. All we have is the total number of websites in Pakistan that had uploaded these visuals.
These visuals definitely played a part in inflaming passions in Mumbai and Lucknow.
4. It was reported in sections of foreign media last week that President Thein Sein of Myanmar has brought these morphed images of unconnected incidents that had taken place outside Myanmar to the notice of the OIC delegation that was in Myanmar.
He reportedly told the OIC delegation that a false impression of a genocide of the Rohingya Muslims of the Rakhine State of Myanmar was sought to be created through the circulation and uploading of such images. We must get from Myanmar details of all the evidence that they have been able to collect in this regard.
5. Now, after the damage has been caused in Mumbai and Lucknow, we seem to have woken up and taken action for the blocking of the websites in Pakistan which had uploaded these provocative visuals. Was it not possible to notice them before and do it?
There's lots more to Raman's report, which he updated today, but now I want to turn to an AFP report, published about two hours ago:
NEW DELHI — India has blamed Pakistan for posting threatening messages on the Internet that triggered a mass exodus from Bangalore and Mumbai by migrants fleeing to their homes in the northeast.
"Our agencies have discovered that the bulk of these messages have been uploaded on various websites in Pakistan," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters on Saturday.
"This is a first of its kind and we believe that it is highly reprehensible."
The exodus was sparked by threats sent via mobile phones and the Internet that people from northeastern Assam state would be attacked by Muslims after the end of the holy month of Ramadan in reprisal for recent ethnic violence.
Local media reports estimated that over 35,000 people have fled the cities of Bangalore and Mumbai in recent days.
Extra trains were arranged to accommodate panicked students and workers.
Three weeks of clashes in remote Assam between members of the Bodo tribal community and Muslims have claimed at least 80 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people.
Singh said India would register a formal protest with Pakistan.
"We will raise this issue with Pakistan... I am certain that they will deny out of hand but our technical people are definite," he said.
India has banned bulk text messages temporarily to try to halt the spread of threats and incendiary rumours. Police in southern city of Bangalore have also arrested three people for spreading images and video clips across India.
The images of atrocities allegedly on Muslims sparked tension and people hailing from the northeast were attacked in western and southern cities.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said those who were fanning the rumours should be punished, saying "communal harmony" was at stake.
B Raman doesn't invoke the term cyberwar in his discussion. But if the one-two punch of hoax images of atrocities and hoax threats of large-scale attacks on Indians in retaliation for hoax images of atrocities doesn't qualify as cyberwar, I don't know what does.