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How Pro-Modi, Anti-Modi Twitter Bots went Berserk

The most active was @PhillyTdp, which posted on #GoBackModi 2,179 times as the hashtag took off staggering one tweet every 5.3 seconds for over three hours

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Twitter, tweets, India
The Twitter logo appears on a phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.. VOA

Two Twitter bots — one in support of and one in opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — made a massive attempt to boost traffic on the platform in India in February as the world’s largest democracy prepared for the General Elections, a new report has found.

The US-based Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR Lab) revealed that the pro-Modi traffic was far more heavily manipulated than the anti-Modi traffic or any large-scale traffic flow the DFR Lab had analyzed.

The two hashtags were #GoBackModi and #TNwelcomesModi.

“The accounts were deployed on a massive scale on February 9-10 and boosted hashtags both in support of and in opposition to incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with small groups of accounts pushing out thousands of posts an hour,” said the DFR Lab report.

The accounts were domestic in origin and substance.

#TNwelcomesModi was mentioned over 777,000 times in two days. The hashtag referenced Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu.

The DFR Lab analyzed the first 49,727 tweets in the flow to see whether the hashtag started to trend because of widespread interest or because it was pushed by a small group.

“Almost two-thirds of the posts that initiated #TNwelcomesModi and pushed it to trend came from just 50 accounts. This was an attempt at manipulation on an industrial scale, using a small number of hyper-tweeting bots to give the hashtag a massive boost,” the report explained.

Twitter, India, Smartphone
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

One such bot account, @priyamanaval6 tweeted around once every 17 seconds. This account, and the others amplifying the #TNwelcomesModi hashtag have been suspended.

On February 10, the hashtag #GoBackModi also trended.

This hashtag trended even faster, racking up 49,538 tweets in just over three hours in the early morning of February 10. It peaked at a lower rate, however, generating 447,000 posts on February 9-10.

Just like #TNwelcomesModi, #GoBackModi was heavily pushed by a small number of high-volume accounts that posted hundreds of times an hour.

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“Unlike #TNwelcomesModi, these accounts were still not suspended at the time of the report.

The most active was @PhillyTdp, which posted on #GoBackModi 2,179 times as the hashtag took off staggering one tweet every 5.3 seconds for over three hours.

The analysis used the Coefficient of Traffic Manipulation (CTM) method, which allows researchers to compare a given Twitter flow with known organic traffic, and traffic that was heavily gamed by small groups. (IANS)

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Micro-blogging Site Twitter to Bring ‘Hide Replies’ Feature in June

“We are updating our rules in the next few weeks so they’re shorter, simpler and easier to understand,” they added

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TWitter
The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. vOA

As part of the efforts to make its platform appear less toxic, Twitter is planning to give people an option to hide replies to their tweets, thereby giving users more control over the nature of conversation they would like to have on the platform.

“Starting in June, we’ll be experimenting with ways to give people more control over their conversations by giving them an option to hide replies to their Tweets,” Donald Hicks, Vice President, Twitter Service and David Gasca, Twitter’s Senior Director, Product Management, Health, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

While the feature has the potential to make trolls invisible, it could make it difficult for users to correct wrong statements made by others.

Other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram already give users much more power in terms of dealing with the comments to their posts, including the option to delete them.

Twitter last year said that making the platform free of abuse, spam and other things that distract from the public conversation is its top priority.

The microblogging site on Tuesday said it had got a lot faster and better at curbing abusive behaviour and hateful content.

Twitter, India, Smartphone
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“This time last year, 0 per cent of potentially abusive content was flagged to our teams for review proactively. Today, by using technology, 38 per cent of abusive content that’s enforced is surfaced proactively for human review instead of relying on reports from people using Twitter,” Hicks and Gasca wrote.

“The same technology we use to track spam, platform manipulation and other rule violations is helping us flag abusive Tweets to our team for review,” they said.

Twitter said 100,000 accounts were suspended for creating new accounts after a suspension during January-March 2019 — a 45 per cent increase from the same time last year.

Also Read- Mozilla Questions Apple’s Privacy Practice

With a focus on reviewing this type of content, Twitter said it had expanded its teams in key areas and geographies.

“We’ll make it easier for people who use Twitter to share specifics when reporting so we can take action faster, especially when it comes to protecting people’s physical safety,” Hicks and Gasca wrote.

“We are updating our rules in the next few weeks so they’re shorter, simpler and easier to understand,” they added. (IANS)