New Delhi: Social media is no longer a trusted measure for popularity, especially at the time of polls. Likes can be manipulated and fake friends are readily available. That has been been exposed by Cobrapost, which recently revealed Gujarat police snooping on a young woman at the behest of Amit Shah, BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi's aide.
In a long undercover operation, codenamed Operation Blue Virus, Cobrapost has exposed how IT professionals manipulate following on Facebook and Twitter and add fake friends belonging to the community of one's choice.. Even building negative publicity against a politicall leader or a party is no big deal.
Everything comes for a price and it has to be paid in cash.
Cobrapost Associate Editor Syed Masroor Hasan approached over two dozen IT companies seeking to launch his master Netaji's image building exercise on social media before the Assembly polls and destroy his opponent's reputation.
Surprisingly, the companies were ready to do everything: generating lakhs of fake following Facebook, Twitter, not allowing negative comment to appear on the page and a community wise popularity with fake profiles of Muslims.
As for destroying the reputation of the opponent was considered, the companies would hack into the computers of other individuals for posting defamatory content using their IPs and they had a to circumvent TRAI regulations on mass SMS. And every publicity video would go viral.
Many of these practices constitute a crime under the ambit of existing laws such as the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act 2000, the Income Tax Act 1961 and the Representation of the People Act 1951. But, who cares?
One Abhishek Kumar, who is also working for Campaign Modi on social media, is planning to make a defamatory content on Rahul Gandhi to go viral on social media a few days before elections.
Operation Blue Virus also reveals BJP is leading from the front in its social media campaign, if the claims of the companies exposed are to be believed, so is its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, with scores of companies working overtime for him.
According to Trikam Patel of Traims, investigated by Cobrapost, 3 per cent income of IT companies of Bangalore is coming from this kind of political work and BJP is contributing the major share.
To quote Patel, again: “If some news channel comes to know of this that the ministers are doing their marketing using all these shady methods, they will lose the trust of the public.”
There are some IT professionals like Bipin Pathare, who are capable of exploding a bomb. Pathare told Hasan: "Praveen Jara won here … you know what we did … there were some Muslim votes in a locality … we knew Muslims will not cast vote in his favour … there were 60 per cent Muslim votes … you know what we did … we created a riot … exploded there a little hand bomb taking help from their own fellows … nobody among the community ventured out … their 60 per cent vote was secured thus … we have all these kinds of strategy.”