Home Opinions Rahul Gandhi's and Congress' 'resurgence' - Bots are not the problem

Rahul Gandhi’s and Congress’ ‘resurgence’ – Bots are not the problem

Yesterday, Congress’ umpteenth attempt at relaunching Rahul Gandhi was laid bare by a simple investigation. It was revealed that a spurt in Rahul’s social media metrics, was actually a result of Russian, Kazhak and Indonesian bots fervently pushing up Rahu’s tweets. Congress and Rahul Gandhi were obviously panned for it. But are “bots” the real problem here?

Using bots for re-tweets or fake followers on social media, is one of the oldest tricks in the social media political book. No party is immune from this. A simple check on a popular site, which identifies “fake followers” (the way they define it) on Twitter, shows that across party lines, across countries, politicians and even religious leaders, have a large number of ‘fake’, inactive, or bot accounts following them:

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One can always debate the technicalities and methodologies behind such tools and try to argue in a way agreeable to them, but the real issue is much larger.

We had hinted at this a few days back, and since then, it has got even bigger. In the week ending October 11, at least SEVEN (1234567) different mainstream publications were all praise for Congress’s social media “resurgence”, claiming that Congress has now got its act together on social media. This in spite of the fact that the Congress’ social media handle has been goofing up on a regular basis. But the media cheerleaders were not done yet.

Between October 12 and October 20, we again had a barrage of media reports glorifying Rahul Gandhi’s rise on social media. NDTV carried this piece by a journalist named Mihir Sharma:

Hindustan Times, had this piece:

DailyO – an opinion websites from India Today group – too had this piece, based on the same premise:

The parent organisation India Today too carried another article:

NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan even conducted a full prime time debate on this issue:

Did any media house from the above try to investigate this sudden surge in Rahul Gandhi’s social media metrics before running flowery, fawning pieces on him, Congress and their “resurgence”? Did they try to analyse whether the growth was organic or manipulated? Especially since some in the same media, had in 2015, wrongly raised suspicion when Modi received a sudden “boost” on social media. The boost as it turned out, was due to some technical change from Twitter’s side.

Were various media houses fed with this fluff-story to boost Rahul Gandhi’s image? Most stories laid the credit squarely at Divya Spandana’s doorstep, for reinvigorating Congress’ and Rahul’s social media fortune. What role did she have, in pushing such stories out? Can it be a coincidence that at least 12 different stories on the same false premise were published in various media houses across a short span of 14 days or so?

This is the real problem. Most of the legacy media, especially left-leaning one, which keeps harping about “fake news”, played the pliant fool, or the enthused cheerleader, in propagating a myth which was backed by Kazakh bots. The same media, which hangs on to every word by PM Modi or anyone from his team, to be fact-checked to the last detail, readily gulped down this narrative that Rahul Gandhi is back with a bang. The only thing back though is the public’s distrust of legacy media.

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