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Operation K: How China-based accounts disguised as Sikhs manipulated social media

From criticizing the Indian government to supporting the independence movement in Khalistan, China-based ‘bad actors’ engaged in manipulating social media using synthetic content, including the misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) , have now been brought to light.

The network originated in China and focused on the global Sikh community, including in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Great Britain and Nigeria.

According to Meta (formerly Facebook), these social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and

These reports regularly published on floods in the Punjab region, the Sikh community worldwide, “the Khalistan independence movement, the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a pro-Khalistan independence activist in Canada and criticism of the Indian government.”

Meta took action and deleted 37 Facebook accounts, 13 pages, five groups and nine accounts on Instagram for violating its policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB).

This activity included several clusters of fake accounts, including one with links to an “unattributed CIB network from China that targeted India and the Tibet region that we disrupted in early 2023.”

Some of these clusters reinforced each other, with most of their engagement coming from their own fake accounts.

Meta said this operation used compromised and fake accounts to pose as Sikhs, post content and manage pages and groups.

They created a fictional activist movement called ‘Operation K’, which called for pro-Sikh protests, including in New Zealand and Australia.

The company said it removed this activity before it could build an audience among authentic communities on its platforms.

Not just Meta, a Microsoft Threat Analysis team warned last month that China will create and amplify AI-generated content to advance its interests amid major global elections, especially in India and the US.

According to Microsoft, China is using fake social media accounts to survey voters about what divides them most, in order to sow division and potentially influence the outcome of the election.