Rahul Gandhi has been very active on Social Media these days, his team is constantly tweeting many Anti-BJP and Anti-Modi tweets and there seems to be a growing support for his views on Social Media. His twitter handle ‘OfficeofRG’ has been the topic of various news outlets recently, even Congress is projecting the rise in retweets as evidence of a resurgence of Rahul Gandhi’s interaction on social media.
However, if we keep a close eye on the twitter handles retweeting the CongressVice President’s tweets does throw up some questions…Most of them are not real, most of them are looking like Bots, are these automated ‘bots’ mass retweeting Rahul Gandhi’s tweets? It seems so.
On October 15th, ‘OfficeofRG’ retweeted US President Donald Trump’s tweet praising American-Pakistani relations with a caption ‘Modi ji quick, looks like President Trump needs another hug’. The tweet quickly reached 20,000 retweets and currently has touched 30,000.
If we do a close analysis, these tweets showed that these alleged ‘bots’ with a Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian characteristic were routinely retweeting the Congress VP’s tweets. Further scrutiny of these Twitter accounts showed that the follower list was usually under 10 users and retweets comprised of random topics from across the world and those of Rahul Gandhi. Moreover, the content of these twitter timelines comprised merely of retweets and a lack of tweets which could be categorized as an original thought.
There is another news report claiming that the Congress had roped in Big Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica for a more targeted digital campaign to woo voters. Cambridge Analytica was in the news during the US Presidential election cycle last year for advising Donald Trump in precision voter targeting based on online habits of voters in different states. It seems Rahul Gandhi’s ‘resurgence’ on social media also goes hand in hand with this news. It is quite logical as Rahul Gandhi’s Social Media accounts were not getting too much response earlier, all it has started in last couple of month since Divya Spandana took over the role of Social Media Chief for Rahul Gandhi.
When asked about this apparent inorganic spike DivyaSpandana/ Ramya, the new Congress chief of Social Media and Digital communications wrote back, “On Twitter one tweets and what happens after that is not in our control. You will have to speak to twitter to get clarity.”
Fake Twitter followers and ‘bots’ going on Retweet frenzies is not a new phenomenon. An exhaustive report in the New York Times in 2013, mentions the burgeoning business of fake Twitter profiles and ‘bulk sales of retweets’. The newspaper quoted a reseller of retweets as saying, “Business is great…had hired a couple of freelance programmers, a kid could bypass Twitter’s defences.”