On 3rd November, the Mumbai Police released a press note stating they have marked over 1.5 Twitter accounts for posting defamatory content against the Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai Police, Commissioner of Police, and others. The majority of these accounts were allegedly created or surfaced recently after the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
In October, Mumbai Police had stated that over 80,000 social media accounts were created for ‘defaming’ Police Commissioner and police force in Sushant Singh Rajput case. As per the latest press note, the team of cyber experts with Mumbai Police has marked approximately 1.5 lakh Twitter accounts during the technical investigation. As many as 80 percent of them were reported as suspicious. They made ‘negative tweets’, retweets, and comments against Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra Government and Mumbai Police. “Their activities surprisingly showcased the drastic leap in the number of Tweets per day, number of followers, following, which is quite difficult for an individual who is a genuine user of Twitter or any social media platform to express his own opinion for certain social topics,” the report further added.
Understanding ‘Bots’ or fake accounts on social media platforms
Bots are fake accounts that are used to push trends on social media platforms. Such accounts are controlled by software using Twitter API. As these accounts can be automated to generate tweets, retweets, likes, shares, and even replies in DMs, many digital marketing companies use such fake accounts to promote their clients. There are services available where one can buy likes, retweets, views, etc. at a very low price. This technology is often deemed as illegal by the social media platforms as it uses unfair means of promoting a trend on social media platforms. Such fake accounts or Bots periodically removed from the social media platforms to safeguard the interest of the users. It was reported in June that Twitter had deleted 1.7 fake accounts that were promoting Chinese narrative. In August, rapped Badshah had reportedly confessed of using such services for promoting his account on social media platforms.
The majority of accounts are Bots
As per the press release, during a more in-depth investigation into these accounts, Mumbai Police found that many of the marked Twitter accounts were Bots and fake accounts operated with the help of Bots. Most of the accounts were being operated from different countries, but some of such Bots have Indian IP addresses. They alleged that these Bots were used to ‘spread defamatory contents against the Government of Maharashtra and Mumbai Police’.
In the report, Mumbai Police noted that there were several fake accounts in the names of known celebrities such as Raveena Tondon and several others. These accounts were used to “execute the defamation over social media platform Twitter. During the investigation, Mumbai police found this fake account is a BOT,” the report further added.
Hashtags and important mentions By Bots
Cyber experts prepared a list of hashtags and important mentions that were used to “defame Mumbai Police”.
“Primarily, we were suspecting the involvement of such kind of technology (BOT) must be getting used to operating anonymously, but now it’s quite evident after the confirmation from Cyber Expert, that BOTS are getting used by culprits/sponsored personalities to execute the fake account activity and it’s a major breakthrough,” the report said.
Accounts are disappearing, says Mumbai Police
Mumbai Police suggested in the report that many accounts that were involved in the defamation are disappearing from the social media platform. Some accounts are deleting the defamatory content to ‘evade investigation process’. Many of these accounts are being operated from outside India from countries like China, Panama, Hong Kong, Nepal, and others. They are using Proxy Server to hide their identity. The experts have found few accounts that were operated within India. They were also using Proxy Servers.
“For further investigation, the details of all the accounts which are suspicious in nature as Bot, will be handover to Twitter to confirm the details and eliminate them with immediate effects while maintaining the Evidence for further course of action,” the report further added. Mumbai Cyber Cell is investigating the case further with the help of Cyber Experts.