Centre for Internet & Society

A majority of Twitter users following top Indian politicians, including prime minister Narendra Modi, are fake, according to an audit site.

The article by Furquan Moharkan was published in Deccan Herald on October 24, 2017.

Leaders cutting across party lines generate popularity on social media using bots, or automated software, according to the data-analytics website TwitterAudit.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Modi, and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi have a combined Twitter credibility of just 35%. In other words, 65 out of 100 followers are fake.

Kejriwal, with 1.24 crore followers, has a low credibility of 22.9% on Twitter, according to TwitterAudit. A good 96.34 lakh of Kejriwal’s followers are bots.

Modi, who has two personal Twitter handles (@narendramodi and @narendramodi_in), has a combined credibility of just 37.4%. On the handle @narendramodi, of 3.5 crore followers, just 1.3 crore followers are said to be authentic. The remaining 2.2 crore are marked as bots by TwitterAudit.

The handle @narendramodi_in has 5.99 lakh authentic followers, and 8.01 lakh are again marked as bots.

Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, relatively new to social media, has seen much traction of late. His credibility score is 51.6% on Twitter.

While 19.73 lakh of his followers are authentic, 18.51 lakh are said to be fake.

Rahul’s story

Rahul Gandhi’s handle ‘OfficeofRG’ has been in the news, with a spike in retweets being cited by rivals in the BJP as evidence of bots at work.

The handle got 2,784 retweets in September, as compared to 2,506 for Modi and and 1,722 for Kejriwal. In October, he’s scoring even better, with 3,812 retweets.

Sites like TwitterAudit are helpful, but their results are guesses based on various assumptions about ‘bot-like’ qualities, according to an expert.

Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director at Centre for Internet and Society, told DH some users were also out on ‘false flag operations,’ besmirching opponents by ‘exposing’ their usage of bots. “The idea that social media bots can shape popular discourse, as is often supposed to be the case with Brexit, is not backed by research,” he said. “A study by Enders Analysis shows the opposite to be the case.”

The score by TwitterAudit is based on the number of tweets, date of the last tweet, and ratio of followers to friends.

A news agency alleged the traction came from ‘bots’ with Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian handles routinely retweeting Rahul’s posts.

Infact, Prime Minister Office handle (@PMOIndia) also has a low credibility of 39.6%, according to twitter audit.

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