A fake Pakistani Twitter account posing as the handle of an Omani princess was caught spreading misinformation and anti-India content on Twitter.
Tweets made by the account went viral amid a wave of controversy following concerns raised by the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is made up of 57 nations, raised concerns regarding growing Islamophobia in India.
On April 22, a Twitter handle with the name "H.H. Mona bint Fahd al Said", the Omani princess, tweeted the following, "Oman stands with its Muslim brothers and sisters in India. If the Indian government doesn't stop the persecution of Muslims, then one million (Indian) workers working in Oman may be expelled. I will definitely take up this issue with the Sultan of Oman." The tweet further tagged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Oman stands with its Muslim brothers and sisters in India. If the Indian Govt doesn't stop the persecution of Muslims, then 1million workers living in Oman may be expelled. I will definitely take up this issue with the Sultan of Oman. @narendramodi— H.H. Mona bint Fahd al Said 🇴🇲 (@SayyidaMona) April 21, 2020
The tweet instantly went viral and was shared by the handles of several social media users as well as the official handles of the Pakistani government. Many in India outraged against the tweet and called for a boycott of Omani royalty within India.
The discovery comes amid a trend in Pakistani social media sphere of Twitter account holders changing their names and impersonating Saudi royalty following IOC's statement.
A 'parody' account
The tweet was made by the account named @SayyidaMona. Many, however, noted that though the account had thousands of followers, it was not a verified handle.
Further investigation revealed that the account that posted the tweet was not Princess's Mona's at all but a "parody" account. The same was written in the account's bio, perhaps in an attempt to protect it from being taken down by Twitter as a fake account. (Twitter permits parody accounts to function on the microblogging site).
A fact check conducted by IB Times revealed that the account had originally been called "@pak_Fauj", linking it to the Pakistani army. Searching for @pak_Fauj on Twitter led users to the @SayyidaMona account, proving that both accounts were one and the same. Visiting the account and scrolling down to past tweets (that had not been deleted) that bore the earlier credentials.
In wake of the viral fake tweet, the Omani princess herself put out a statement, clarifying that the tweet threatening to expel l Indian workers from Oman was not made by her or her official handles.
"Friends, First of all, I thank you for your concern to verify the offensive post published through an account impersonating me, which you are sure that I have no connection with it. With full trust in all of you in strengthening awareness among all regarding such activities, which are not acceptable to the Omani society, I confirm again that my presence in social media is restricted on the following accounts: @hhmonaalsaid and @MonaFahad 13." Prince Mona clarified.
The clarification was lauded by Indan envoy to Oman Munu Mahawar who took to Twitter to thank the princess for her candor. "I thank HH @MonaFahad13 for clarification on fake social media posts attributed to her" and India values its "friendly relations with Oman and will continue working closely with the Government and people of Oman to further strengthen our special relationship."
The controversy follows UAE Princess Hend Al Qassimi's vocal criticism of right-wing trolls and growing Islamophobia as well as communal hate-speech in India.
The Pakistan connection
The tweet has come after controversy in India following the IOC statement with many in Indian calling for a boycott of India's diplomatic relations in the Gulf country. In the past few days, several such modified or fake Pakistani accounts have changed their handles to Arabic-sounding names in order to spread anti-India propaganda.
As per reports in WION as well as Zee News, many of these accounts including "Pak_fauj" aka "SayyidaMona", could be traced back to ISPR. Crawling to a number of older, now deleted tweets from the parody account link the tweets to ISPR.
Furthermore, the fake tweet by the parody account was shared by a number of Pakistani journalists and even politicians.
Indian PM @narendramodi creating problems for his countrymen working in other countries statement from Princess @SayyidaMona is reflection of growing anger against Modi policies his hatred against Muslims may force friends of India in Middle East to reconsider their policies https://t.co/pJkujm1Akz— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) April 22, 2020
In fact, Pakistan's Foreign Minister SM Qureshi also mentioned Oman's alleged decision to expel Indians in one of his addresses to the Indian diaspora in Gulf. "Highlighting the huge Indian diaspora in Gulf, he said, "Gulf..for example, Oman has said Indians working in the country should leave," he allegedly said.
No such claims have been made by the government or royalty of Oman.
Many on Twitter felt that the fake tweets were attempts made by Pakistan to create tensions between India-s relations with Gulf nations like Saudi and Oman.
Thread:— Al iskandar (@TheSkandar) April 22, 2020
Pakistanis are exploiting Twitter of changing name to carry out propaganda against India. An ID connected with @OfficialDGISPR پاک فوج (@pak_fauj) Changed into Royal Princess of Oman H.H. Mona bint Fahd Al Said @SayyidaMona to create conflict between India & Arab world pic.twitter.com/41t9ax73cl