A network of fake social media profiles of people claiming to be Sikhs, and promoting divisive narratives, has been exposed, reports BBC.

The network used so-called “sock puppet” accounts, which are fake ones controlled by real people posing as independent individuals, rather than automated “bots”.

The fake profiles used Sikh names and claimed to be “Real Sikhs”. They used the hashtags #RealSikh to endorse, and #FakeSikh to discredit, different political viewpoints.

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The report, from non-profit organisation the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), found many of the accounts in the network used the same fake profiles across several platforms. These accounts shared the same names, profile pictures, and cover photos, and published identical posts.

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According to the report, the accounts sought to label any notion of Sikh independence as extremist, and delegitimise the farmers’ protests, claiming they had been hijacked by “Khalistani terrorists”.

Benjamin Strick who worked on the story wrote a detailed thread on Twitter sharing the details of his findings.

“We can glean some obvious details from the content the accounts post. Here is some of the Facebook activity we looked at. It shows a strong focus on countering Sikh independence. Note the prominence of tags such as #PakistanBehindKhalistan,” tweeted, Benjamin.

“There was also a common theme throughout the network of fake personas to retweet or tweet about the Indian Armed Forces and Indian Army content. This content was unique as it was not related to Sikh independence much like the other content,” shared Bejamin on Twitter.