Moditards or robots: Are Bharatiya Janata Party’s rabid social media activists fake?

The surging Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had a lively social media presence during this year’s elections in India. Anyone who has ever combined a hashtag with “Modi,” “BJP,” “NaMo,” (a nickname of Narendra Modi here in India) or anything else related to Modi or the BJP has surely encountered Modi supporters either praising or defending their views. These “Moditards,” as some journalists have dubbed them, are generally passionate professionals who want nothing more than for Modi to lead the country, though some accounts are also suspected of being social media robots.

But an enterprising Indian who obviously has some programming skills did some investigating and found that most of these accounts are, in fact, fake Modi supporters.

Using one particular pro-Modi comment as a guinea pig to test the social media robot theory, the Indian, who goes by the name Max Freeman on Twitter, found that more than 70 percent of the “likes” it received were probably from countries outside of India. The locales of the countries — Indonesia and Vietnam being a couple of them — as well as unusual names such as “Smart Surf” brought him to this conclusion. Freeman compared it with the likes of pro-Aam Aadmi Party comments and saw their locations were from within India, and they had Indian-sounding names.

“It’s clear that BJP is paying click farms in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries to get fraudulent likes,” Freeman wrote in his WordPress blog. “I’ve tried to stay unbiased in this post by just presenting the facts. You’re the one who has to decide.” [Emphasis from the original.]

Since Freeman originally posted the blog on April 14, however, the guinea pig comment he used has disappeared. His Twitter account has also mysteriously been suspended, though he’s still around on the Internet — he last responded to comments on his post April 16.

Meanwhile, Zack Beauchamp over at Vox Media shared some personal experiences of his own with the Moditards. He keeps getting spammed by them, including one tweet from the BJP’s official Twitter account that features this Vine of Modi:

Beauchamp saw the BJP Twitter account has been spamming everyone else as well. Within a four-hour timeframe on April 16, @BJP4India tweeted the same message about 7,000 times. The problem is this is against the rules of Twitter, as Beauchamp writes:

What’s more, this might actually cost BJP their Twitter presence. The Official Twitter Rules prohibit “large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions” and “large numbers of unsolicited @replies or mentions in an aggressive attempt to bring attention to a service or link.” Doing either, according to Twitter, can result in an account’s “permanent suspension.”

I’ve reached to Twitter for comment, and will update if they respond. Until then, be careful what you tweet — unless you love hearing Narendra Modi pleading for your vote.

This piece was originally published on April 17, 2014, on Link TV’s World News website.

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