Is NDTV using fake “bot” accounts on social media to push up their stories?

It is now a well known fact that as far as viewership and TRP is concerned, NDTV’s television channel is in doldrums. Once known as the prime channel for erudite viewers, NDTV has slipped far below. Recently, we also highlighted how Barkha Dutt was possibly forced to move her show to an earlier slot so as to avoid a clash with Arnab’s show on Times Now.

In the online world though, NDTV’s website is doing much better than its peers. The graph below does show some slippages in terms of rank in recent times, but it is fair to say NDTV is still doing well online.

NDTV's rank
NDTV’s rank

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But is this performance of NDTV’s site thanks to real views? A social media user has uncovered something which might make us question the ethics of NDTV.

In the above tweet, the user claims to have found many accounts which tweet out only NDTV articles! Either these are die-hard fans of NDTV or these are “bots” i.e. fake accounts which are automated and are usually paid for. The user further goes on to show some examples of such accounts:

When we checked the above accounts and their tweets, and the claims were validated. These accounts only share NDTV articles, from various portals such NDTV Profit and Gadgets NDTV. What is even more interesting is that all the accounts share the same story at the exact same time:

Coordinated tweets
Coordinated tweets

Again, such coordinated tweeting can either be a huge coincidence or this may be pointing flatly to the allegation that these are in fact automated bot accounts.

Such “fake” shares get accumulated and add up to the total shares an NDTV post gets, which gives the impression to an average reader that the post was indeed viral, making the real user also read the post.

At this stage, it is not known whether these fake accounts are paid for by NDTV itself or they are operated by some “friendly” Samaritans. Knowing that NDTV has far too often been caught in immoral practices such as fake news, incorrect reporting, tax scandals, murky deals etc, NDTV’s involvement in this issue also cannot be ruled out. So much for “paid Sanghi Right Wing trolls”!

Updates:

1. After this post was published, as expected, CTO of NDTV claimed that NDTV did not have any such bots, and at the same time tried to claim that other sites like Times of India and Hindustan Times also had similar bots sharing their pieces (which was found to be incorrect). He also blamed Twitter for this issue saying “Twitter is full of such bots”

2. Within hours of publishing this story, all the accounts mentioned above were found to be suspended.


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