New Delhi: An undercover operation by Cobrapost has exposed how IT companies in India are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to help politicians artificially boost their popularity, gain followers and engage in smear campaigns.
From discrediting political opponents on behalf of clients to even spreading communal violence, social media marketing companies willing to do anything for money. The undercover reporter pretending to work for a fictitious neta is assured by companies to help his neta win.
"We detonated a small bomb in a locality which counted for 60% Muslim votes. We created a mini riot," said Bipin Pathare of Om Consultancy Services.
With the memories of the Muzaffarnagar riots and the role social media played in the North East exodus from Bangalore last year still fresh, this Cobrapost investigation puts a question mark on online campaigns. One company which claims to have worked for Narender Modi's online campaign boosted how it tried to give a positive public perception within the minority community. "We will make 50 fake Muslim profiles because they don't associate with BJP. Their job will be only to praise the minister," said Sanjeev Singh who works for Webolaxy
Another company boasting on camera how it spread malicious content against Rahul Gandhi just before elections. "This Rahul Gandhi ...he had a friend called .. Mittal ... there was some affair ... they have made it out into a gangrape ... she had perhaps filed a case also .. this is what is written all here below," said Abhishek Kumar, Virinchi Software
"Malicious campaigns and getting paid followers is apparantly childsplay. I will create 50 websites using the new computer virus, Trojan Faking. It opens your sites on their computers on its own. Likes will increase automatically," Trikam Patel, Co-Founder Triams.
Cobrapost Editor in Chief Anirudha Bahl claimed the sting operation revealed too what extent the social media is being misused.
Following this investigation, it is likely social media campaigns may be taken with a pinch of salt.