Pakistani social media campaigner Hanzala Tayyab is leading 300 ultra-nationalists on a cyber war with India. The 24-year-old is using Facebook and encrypted WhatsApp groups to organise members of his Pakistan Cyber Force group to promote anti-India content. They are making it go viral using his over 50,000 Twitter followers too.
The group highlights alleged Indian human rights abuses to fuel ongoing tensions in Kashmir. It is a Himalayan region at the heart of historical tensions between Pakistan and India.
On 1st April 2019, Pakistan Cyber Force’s Facebook account was taken down. It was one of the 103 accounts deleted by the social media giants for spamming and inauthentic behaviour. In recent weeks, some Indian nationalist accounts have also been suspended.
An estimated total population of 1.5 billion people in India and Pakistan are on Facebook and Twitter. Both companies face accusations of bias whenever they suspend accounts. Each rival uses social media platforms to propagate their political agendas.
In the past two months, Facebook and Twitter have deleted 24 accounts altogether belonging to members of the Pakistan Cyber Force.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, they removed the Pakistani accounts because people behind them coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves. They added that it was not because of any influence from the Indian government.
They added that the 103 accounts previously removed were part of a network linked to employees of the Pakistani military’s public relations arm. Tayyab, however, denies that the Pakistan Cyber Force is linked to Pakistan’s military. He says the group consists of volunteers. He also admitted his displeasure with Twitter for shutting down his previous personal account in 2016.
In February 2019, Pakistan and India carried out aerial bombing missions against each other’s territory. This almost sparked a war between them. The last time the two countries took a go at each other was in 1971. They fought a brief dogfight over the Kashmir skies.