Planning to win elections in Russia? Smriti Irani's dig on Rahul Gandhi's Twitter surge

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 21, 2017 17:41 hrs
Smriti Irani, Rahul Gandhi indulge in Twitter war over IIT Madras controversy

New Delhi: Union minister Smriti Irani on Saturday aimed a barb laden with derision at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, after a media report claimed that the recent uptick in his social media traction may well be due to bots.

News agency ANI, reported that a number of automated bots with a Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian characteristic have been frequently retweeting Rahul's posts on Twitter. A Twitterbot is a software which may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, retweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts.

Citing this report, Smriti said, "Perhaps @OfficeOfRG planning to sweep polls in Russia, Indonesia and Kazakhstan?"

The recent surge in Rahul's popularity on Twitter has been widely reported in the media, with some detailing how the Gandhi scion was outstripping Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the most followed Indian politician on the micro-blogging site, in terms of volume of retweets as well as number of followers gained.

Rahul's official Twitter handle "OfficeOfRG" added around one million followers in the last two months and his average number of retweets 2,784 as opposed to 2,506 for PM Modi's tweets. Congress said his growing social media presence was a result of his tweets resonating with the people of the country.

The party's social media insider said that the increased engagement has been made possible by methods like the party facilitating "verification" of its leaders from Twitter.

However, after analysing one of his most popular tweets, ANI claimed Rahul's resurgence is mostly inorganic and attributable to bots.

Responding to these conflicting reports, Congress chief of Social Media and Digital communications Divya Spandana told ANI, "On Twitter one tweets and what happens after that is not in our control. You will have to speak to Twitter to get clarity."

Bots are a thriving part of Twitter's user base and study shows an estimated 9 to 15 percent of active accounts are bots. The micro-blogging side is under the scanner in an ongoing federal investigation in the US after it emerged that Russia had used fake accounts and automated bots to mount an anti-Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

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