Analysis of hashtags #GoBackModi and #TNWelcomesModi by the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) shows that automated Twitter bot accounts are making a massive attempt to manipulate traffic on the social media platform in India ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Bot accounts deployed during February 9-10 before Narendra Modi's visit to Tamil Nadu boosted hashtags both in support of and opposition to the Prime Minister, show findings by the DFRLab, a leading centre tracking events in governance, technology and security.
These accounts, the report says, pushed out thousands of posts every hour. The incident underlines the extent to which social media has become a significant tool in the run-up to the general elections.
The report further goes on to say the pro-Modi traffic was far more heavily manipulated than the anti-Modi traffic. However, while the scale of the activity was vast, its impact wasn't as much given the low number of followers of these accounts.
The DFRLab scanned traffic on the hashtag #TNWelcomesModi which was mentioned over 777,000 times between February 9-10, referring to the PM's visit to the state, where the BJP has not been able to make any mark.
Another hashtag which was analysed by the researchers was #GoBackModi which also pushed messages in support of Congress, BJP's main rival. The hashtag trended even faster with 49538 tweets in a matter of three hours in the early hours of February 10. Though the trend didn't peak as much, around 44700 posts were generated between February 9-10.
The analysis used the Coefficient of Traffic Manipulation (CTM) method, which allows comparison of a given Twitter flow with known organic traffic, and traffic that was heavily gamed by small groups.
Close to 875 million voters will be going to the polls between April 11 and May 18 for which the Modi-led BJP along with other political parties have launched large-scale electoral campaigns.