16 May, 2021

Tweet Me A Riot...Or Two

No social media space in this election season is sacred. It’s a playground for manipulation—routine and vile. Any IT firm does it for a price.

Tweet Me A Riot...Or Two

The brief is straightforward and clearly not unexpected in a busy election season. Posing as a frontman for a fictitious politician from an opposition party (known only as Netaji), an undercover team approaches two dozen IT companies in three cities (Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore) with a simple request: Netaji wants to launch a campaign on social media before the assembly elections. Simultaneously, his opponent’s reputation has to be des­troyed with negative publicity. The target: help Netaji win the assembly election with a handsome margin, and also get him a Lok Sabha ticket in the 2014 election, then a cabinet berth. Budget not a problem. The payment will be in cash, of course. Deal?

Not surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes. But—and this is where it gets sinister—most of these firms didn’t bat an eyelid while agreeing to do negative, defamatory and illegal acts.

Everyone has heard about it: the fake Twitter/Facebook followers, the rumours on WhatsApp and SMS, the YouTube video from Pakistan passed off as neighbourhood violence...

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