Are Pakistani Twitter bots behind troll attacks on Indian cricketers?


After Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh dropped a catch in a crunch India-Pakistan Super-4 stage match of the Asia Cup in Dubai, Pakistani Twitter bots are reportedly fuelling wrath against Indian cricketers.

An exclusive report by the New Delhi-based non-partisan Digital Forensics, Research and Analytical Center (DFRAC) unveiled a false narrative against India and its cricketers.

Indian cricket fans were disheartened when India lost to Pakistan in the nailbiting match last week, but it was 23-year-old Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh who was made a target on severe online trolling for dropping a catch against Pakistani batsman Asif Ali.

Soon after the match, social media exploded with Tweets about Arshdeep Singh. Many Pakistani social media users trolled Arshdeep Singh for dropping the catch. A lot of users have also called him an ISI agent or a Khalistani.

One tweet said, “Arshdeep is clearly a part of the Pakistan-backed Khalistan movement.”

Analyzing more than 20,000 accounts that interacted with the hashtags (#ArshdeepSingh and #Khalistani), it was found that more than 100 of these accounts were created on September 5 alone, and later tweeted the hashtags.

In 2021, after India’s loss to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup, similar hate was seen against the Indian batsmen Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, and Indian bowler Mohammed Shami.

At that time, it was Shami who was called an ISI agent. Then captain Virat Kohli had defended Shami on social media.

As soon as India lost the match against Pakistan, #ArshdeepSingh began trending with more than 27,000 tweets. Around 4,500 tweets were trending with #Khalistani.

On September 3, #ArshdeepSingh was trending on Twitter. A sudden increase was observed on September 4 after 11:05 pm IST and the hashtag reached its peak on September 5 with more than 12,000 tweets.

#Khalistani began trending on September 4 after 11:05 pm and was at its peak on September 5 with more than 4000 tweets.

The first tweet on Arshdeep Singh with the word Khalistan was posted by a Pakistani account with the name Usman (@hmudg1997), reported DFRAC.

Google Search timeline suggests that the keyword “Arshdeep Singh” started late on Sept 4 2022, thereafter gradually decreasing.

Similar activities were conducted in Pakistan and UAE, intending to amplify misinformation. When the DFRAC team searched for “Khalistani” on Google trends, it showed that the keyword’s timeline had started on September 4 and gained pace on September 5.

Moreover, Arshdeep Singh’s Wikipedia page was edited on September 4. The word “India” was replaced with “Khalistan” on Singh’s Wikipedia page by an anonymous user even as another editor shortly undid these changes.
It is clear that the IP address from where the Wikipedia page was edited was from Punjab, Pakistan.

The Internet Service provider is Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, reported DFRAC.

In response, the Indian government has summoned Wikipedia executives with respect to the spread of misinformation.

The Ministry of Electronics and Technology said that “no intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation” after cricketer Arshdeep Singh’s Wikipedia page was edited by an unregistered user, linking him to the separatist Khalistani movement.

“No intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation and deliberate efforts to incitement and user harm – violates our govt’s expectation of Safe & Trusted Internet,” tweeted Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MoS Electronics and Technology.

Interestingly, a section of Pakistani Media houses and journalists have criticized India for the hatred spread against Arshdeep on social media.

@GeoNews_Urdu tweeted, “Dear Arshdeep Singh! You’ve just started your career. Indo-Pak matches are pressurising. You dropped a catch and it’s a part of the game. However, we feel sorry the way Indian cricket fans treated you, abused you, called you khalistani. Stay strong bro! All the very best from Pakistan!”

DFRAC said it was, in fact, Pakistani Twitter users that created a false narrative about Indians targeting Arshdeep Singh. The majority of tweets against Arshdeep Singh were done by Pakistani social media users.