Fact-check: No, PTI's website is not being operated from India
The website’s data is routed through a server in India, which is a common practice for many websites in Pakistan and in the region
Updated Monday Jan 29 2024
Social media posts, viewed tens of thousands of times, falsely claim that an official website of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which lists its candidates for the 2024 parliamentary election, is unsafe as it is being operated from India.
“PTI-RAW nexus exposed,” reads the caption of a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on January 24, “The website of PTI for general election 2024 is being operated from Mumbai and Maharashtra.”
The post also shares a 57-second video which alleges that the IP address of the web portal, “pticandidates.com”, is hosted and being handled from India.
The post has been viewed nearly 300,000 times on X alone and reposted over 700 times, to date.
Separately, a Facebook user alleged that those registering themselves on the PTI website risk having their personal information accessed by operators based in India.
Independent digital media experts have confirmed to Geo Fact Check that the claims circulating online are false and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s web page, pticandidates.com, is not being operated from India.
In fact, its data is being routed through a server in India, which is a common practice for many websites in Pakistan and in the region, they add.
A probe by the Islamabad-based Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) found that “pticandidates.com” was hosted by the US-based Amazon Web Services, which had servers in several countries, while the server nearest to Pakistan was located in neighboring India.
“Most Pakistani websites are operated through these servers, including PTI’s website,” Huzaifa Baloch, a content analyst at MMfd, said over the phone, “This does not mean the data is unsafe or India has access to it.”
Media Matters for Democracy further shared with Geo Fact Check a list of Amazon Web Services servers in the Asia Pacific region: three in Hong Kong SAR, three in Melbourne, three in Mumbai, four in Seoul, three in Singapore, three in Sydney, four in Tokyo, four in Osaka, three in Beijing, three in Ningxia, three in Jakarta, and three in Hyderabad, India.
“By default we are served by the server closest to us, therefore Mumbai,” another digital media professional at MMfD said, adding this was common practice for most of the websites operating from Pakistan or the region.
He elaborated that the Amazon Web Services employs a robust and comprehensive security framework that priorities confidentiality, integrity and availability of data.
“Any government or third party organization does not have access to the data stored on these servers,” he said.
Separately, Geo Fact Check reached out to Bytes for All (B4A) Pakistan, a research think tank in Islamabad.
Through a written statement, B4A explained that when a person accesses a website, the data does not take a direct route to the server. Instead it follows a series of nodes and servers across the globe, following a process known as “internet routing”.
Pakistan, B4A further said, lack servers from multinational companies like Amazon, Cloudflare or Azure. Thus, to bridge the gap, these international companies often place their servers in nearby countries, which gives the impression of the site being operated from that region.
“In the context of PTI's website, the data is routed from Pakistan to India before reaching the servers in the USA, where Amazon's main infrastructure is located,” B4A stated, “The controversy surrounding the alleged PTI-RAW connection can be attributed to a misunderstanding of how internet routing works.”
It is important to mention that the web page “pticandidates.com” has been inaccessible in Pakistan for several days now, ahead of the national polls.
With additional reporting by Nadia Khalid.
Follow us on @GeoFactCheck. If our readers detect any errors, we encourage them to contact us at [email protected]