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Are bots behind Rahul Gandhi's surging Twitter popularity? Congress disagrees

24 October 2017, 01:02 | Marta Robbins

Rahul Gandhi popularity on Twitter faked? Here's the Russian bot angle

Gandhi earlier took a swipe at the BJP and the government over the latter extending legal help to Jay Shah in the defamation case

Responding to Irani's tweet, that bots could have pushed Rahul's tweets, Spandana wrote, "Why do we need them when we have you?"

Union minister Smriti Irani mocked Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday, over a recent media report that hinted at the role of "bots" in making Gandhi popular on Twitter.

However, Congress rejected the allegation as "factually wrong". The party's nervousness also emanates from the fact that the Congress party has outsmarted it on social media, where it enjoyed unparalleled dominance until recently.

Rahul Gandhi's "resurgence" on social media also goes hand in hand with another news report claiming that the Congress had roped in Big Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica for a more targeted digital campaign to woo voters.

As on Friday, Gandhi has 3.81 million followers and 3,352 tweets. "Can understand your eagerness to please the I&B ministry and the Bots Janata Party", Ramya tweeted.

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Amit Malviya, who runs the BJP's IT cell, also spoke of the Congress' "desperation" in one of a series of tweets. "Out of 54K reaction how ANI journo identified only them?"

The hashtag #RahulWaveInKazakh was trending on Twitter, where various people took potshots at Rahul. Information and Broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Rathore was quick to follow Irani's cue.

Cambridge Analytica was in the news during the US Presidential election cycle past year for advising Donald Trump in precision voter targeting based on online habits of voters in different states. Rahul Gandhi's recent tweet with a screenshot of Donald Trump's "Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders". Charges that chatbots and fake Twitter accounts, supposedly created by Russians to help President Trump win the election have not gone away and now it seems that "chatbots" may become an issue in Indian politics as well.

Meanwhile, BJP sources have claimed that close to 85% of the handles retweeting @OfficeofRG posts have less than 1,000 followers. "This is a typical characteristic of bots". Now, handles friendly to the Congress have charted out what Irani's followers look like, labelling her the "queen of fake followers". So what was found behind Rahul's spike in retweets is straight from the textbook of paid social media promotion.



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