-Almost all political parties look to manufacture consent, develop favourable opinion using automated help
LAHORE: With the nearing of 2018 general elections in Pakistan, Twitter bots have soared in number and it seems as if every political party’s social media wing is actively enhancing its resources to promote the agenda at hand, Pakistan Today has observed.
Hundreds or even thousands of bots have been scattered across the social media platform whose sole purpose is to manipulate the users. Using Twitter bots, political parties aim to manufacture consent and develop favourable opinion to gain maximum votes.
When (allegedly) three girls speak to you at the same time 😆 pic.twitter.com/0JTmzdrbCR
— Mansoor Ali Khan (@_Mansoor_Ali) March 31, 2018
A Twitter user expressed rage over the issue and demanded the social media giant to take notice of the matter. “It’s time @Twitter make a serious effort to crack down on PML-N fake bots operating online. Most of them use pictures of fake girls too.”
However, the issue is not limited to any single political front. Parties from both left and right-wings are suspected of relying on bots to propagate their messages. A number of Twitter trends seen daily are either sponsored or built using the automated help.
Quoting an anonymous social media executive of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), The Diplomat reported that almost “everyone is running fake Facebook accounts and Twitter bots” in Pakistan to keep “pace with what others are doing”.
Although Twitter announced in February that it would be cracking down on bots after changes to the API to massively reduce the impact of services that allow links and content to be shared across multiple accounts, the move also reduced some real user’s follower counts. The platform largely believes in making its tools apolitical.
“Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias…we also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it,” it said.
GOVT TO BLAME?
Social media activists belonging to the PTI often accuse the rivals, especially the government, of unleashing the bots to counter unfavourable opinions. One Twitter user wrote, “PML-N always had a media cell and they were (still are) using for false propaganda against opposition by employing IT ppl creating BOTS on Twitter, fake followers etc. Now, they’re openly doing it.”
The opposition parties’ wings go on to accuse the PML-N of being involved in malpractices through the IT ministry. The ruling party could be purchasing user’s data to manipulate the 2018 elections due to its power over the IT ministry, a member of the rival social media wing claimed. Similarly, experts criticise the government over its failure to enact data protection laws.
On the other hand, the PTI is too accused of starting hashtag trends whenever faced with severe criticism. A Twitter user complained, “The reply to any fact-based criticism against PTI is to get PTI trolls/cyber troll/bots to ‘grab their keyboards’ and start a hashtag trend.”
According to Pew Research data, an estimated two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts, not human beings. The study adds that among popular news and current event websites, 66% of tweeted links are made by suspected bots.
Not very far away from Pakistan, The Time recently reported that thousands of bots appeared in Malaysia just after the midweek election date was announced.
TWITTER ACCOUNTS AT RISK:
Apart from bots, security concerns too haunt every single Twitter user in Pakistan. The platform itself advised the millions of users to change passwords after bug exposed them in plain text.
The company recommended that users should change their passwords out of an “abundance of caution,” both on the site itself and anywhere else they may have used that password, including the third-party apps like Twitterrific and TweetDeck.
“We recently found a bug that stored passwords unmasked in an internal log. We fixed the bug and have no indication of a breach or misuse by anyone. As a precaution, consider changing your password on all services where you’ve used this password,” it said in the latest blog.