State actors and information warfare – We should recognise that many can play the game of manipulation targeting the Indian information space

Source: The post is based on an articleState actors and information warfare – We should recognise that many can play the game of manipulation targeting the Indian information space” published in Business Standard on 23rd January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Technology

Relevance: misuse of the internet technology

News: Countries these days use the internet as a tool to spread campaigns and influence the people but such campaigns if not used properly can have harmful effects.

What are the harmful effects of internet campaigns?

Internet-based campaigns are built much like crowds in many political rallies. Such campaigns are operated by political parties, private persons, and governments.

Internet-based information manipulation is not illegal but it has the ability to distort the beliefs of many people. 

For example, people believe so much in the misinformation spread through trusted sources like WhatsApp that even the wrong information seems to be true.

Such campaigns were also used by Russia in 2016 to influence the US election and UK on Brexit.

Russian have also simultaneously run pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine campaigns, aiming to get victims misinformation and to hate one another. Thus, bringing conflict within the target society.

These campaigns are of two kinds – a) specific policy objectives, such as Brexit or a Trump victory, broadly aimed at disrupting the essence of liberal democracies, b) bringing chaos and confusion.

Further, thousands of people are using the internet to defame their enemies and to influence government officials about their enemies.

Therefore, many threats can come up with internet-based campaigns and it may also affect a nation’s security.

What can be the threats for India?

Currently, these campaigns in India are run by local businessmen and local political parties. However, there are also chances that foreign states may run such campaigns.

This would influence Indian masses and have negative outcomes, ultimately weakening India.

Also, India is one of the countries in the Global South that has been the target of Russian influence campaigns on the subject of the invasion of Ukraine.

What are the measures required by India to prevent such campaigns?

First, India needs to recognise the problem of influence campaigns which are aimed at reshaping the behaviour of its state and political system.

Second, it requires bringing together knowledge of technology policy, foreign policy, media, and the political system to tackle those campaigns.

Third, it needs to spread awareness against the misinformation shared by social media like WhatsApp or Twitter.

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