Cobrapost exposes social media stunts

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Cobrapost reveals social media politics
New Delhi, Nov 29: Through another sting operation, Cobrapost, an investigative webportal, exposes IT companies who build or mar reputations online for money.

The sting operation, codenamed Operation Blue Virus, reveals how IT companies across the country are helping politicians falsely increase their fame and malign their opponents using social media.

The companies are seen in the expose offering their clients bogus fan-following on Facebook and Twitter to do negative publicity against a rival party or corporate house or an individual. And in return, they are paid huge sums.

The IT companies are employed by corporate houses, NGOs, senior government officials, individual politicians and political parties.

To grab the attention of minorities, they make profiles with muslim names too, the website says.

Cobrapost associate editor Syed Masroor Hasan, posed as a henchman and approached the IT firms to launch a branding exercise for a fictitious politician on social media ahead of the elections.

The companies offered services such as generating lakhs of fake following on the leader's Facebook page and followers on Twitter. The firms promised to ensure that no negative comment would appear on the Facebook page. Also, they would carry out negative publicity against his opponent. 

The execution of the branding exercise is well organised and planned. To leave no trace of their deeds, the IT firms would use assembled computers to carry out negative campaign and destroy them after the job is finished.

They also offered to make promotional videos go viral on YouTube and send bulk SMSs and e-mails. 

Cobrapost during the operation met an IT professional Bipin Pathare of Mumbai's Om Consultancy Services, who offered to also provide details like booth-wise demographics of voters. He also offered to explode a bomb, or spread rumours of a riot situation, forcing Muslim voters to stay indoors on the day of elections and pave the way for bogus voting.

The professionals told Cobrapost on camera how they cover their tracks using offshore IP addresses or servers to upload content. They also use proxy codes, or simply hack others' computers.

One of the instances where the IT professionals were used to create an emergency situation was last year's exodus of Northeastern people from Bangalore and Hyderabad. It was an SMS rumour that went viral which triggered the whole incident.

The incident spurred Cobrapost to carry out its undercover operation, the website said.

Oneindia News

(With agency inputs)

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