Farhan Virk, a Pakistani state-sponsored notorious digital commander who used Twittersphere with hashtags to propagate Islamabad’s agenda, particularly against India was revealed, reported Al Jazeera.
Virk is a household name in Pakistan. He commands a Twitter army of more than 1,000 volunteers dedicated to spreading hyper-nationalist propaganda.
During the time of escalated tensions between India-Pakistan, Virk’s Twitter campaigns aimed at discrediting India’s accusation on Pakistan.
He claims that he can make any hashtag trend nationally. Virk commands over Twitter handle ‘Team Imran Khan’. When India-Pakistan tensions flare, Virk mounts an online attack with his lies through Twitter hashtags, reported Al Jazeera.
Hasham Cheema, reporting for Al Jazeera detailed the inner-workings of Virk’s method, and how his command of the algorithms helped in propagating Pakistan’s agenda.
To trend a hashtag, Virk retweets the agenda with digitally altered images of politicians, journalists – or whoever is in his bad books. What do these campaigns look like? A barrage of unapologetically doctored images, often accompanied by captions that are inaccurate, unverifiable, accusatory and at times defamatory, reported Cheema.
Virk organises the assets (images and captions), shares them with members of Team Imran Khan over WhatsApp and prepares to launch the hashtag attack. Like a swarm of locusts, at a time of their choosing, they descend on Twitter and tweet the images and captions until the hashtag starts trending.
With roughly 300,000 followers spread over two separate Twitter accounts (in case one is suspended) and a team of more than 1,000 volunteers called Team Imran Khan, Virk has carved a unique space for himself on Pakistani Twitter.
To his followers, he is a thought leader. To government ministers, he is an influencer they can mobilise against their rivals, or for any particular cause. To pretty much everyone else, he is a troll who is relentlessly polluting Twitter with nationalist hashtag campaigns, reported Al Jazeera.
Virk claims he has trended close to 4,500 hashtags with Team Imran Khan. “A lot of people call me a troll and I used to be a troll, I have no shame accepting that,” he chuckled.