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'Bots' Boosting Rahul Gandhi's Online Popularity? Twitter Breaks Into Debate

'Bots' Boosting Rahul Gandhi's Online Popularity? Twitter Breaks Into Debate

The report claimed that bots of Russian, Kazakh and Indonesian origin were boosting Mr Gandhi’s visibility on Twitter.

According to a report by news agency Asian News International, Twitterbots are behind the "resurgence of Rahul Gandhi's interaction on social media". The report went on to claim that bots of Russian, Kazakh and Indonesian origin were regularly retweeting the Congress V-P’s tweets, thus boosting Gandhi’s visibility on the microblogging platform.

Before proceeding any further, it is important to understand what a bot, or in this case, a ‘Twitterbot’ is. A Twitterbot is a piece of software/code that accesses an account via the Twitter API and can be programmed to automatically perform tasks like retweeting, favouring, following accounts, etc. The behaviour of the bots, hence, depends entirely on what they have been programmed to do.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani took to Twitter for a jibe at Rahul Gandhi. This is what Irani said:

Soon after Irani’s dig, other BJP leaders, too, took potshots at Rahul Gandhi over his reported use of ‘bots’. Irani’s junior in the ministry, Rajyavardhan Rathore, compared it to doping in sports.

This is what Subramanian Swamy tweeted:

Amit Malviya, in-charge of the BJP's national Information & Technology, targeted Gandhi in a series of tweets. Malviya even brought out screenshots of the ‘bot’ accounts RT-ing Rahul Gandhi’s tweets to drive home his point:

Divya Spandana, who heads the Social Media and Digital Communications wing of the Congress, hit back at Smriti Irani and termed the news story as "factually wrong".

To this, Amit Malviya reacted, tweeting:

Not just politicians, even the regular Twitterati got into the act. But unlike the politicians, their response was rich in humour: