Newsweek published a story, Monday about an alleged troll farm, used to boost the social media account of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, attempting to add interest to their accounts and lend more credibility to their Presidential ticket for the Democratic Party.
There are numerous stories about Troll farms and sock puppet accounts, so this story by Newsweek is timely
Troll Farms and Sock Puppets have been suspected to have been used to boost unpopular campaigns and candidates.
“Joe Biden’s Twitter account got a sizable boost beginning in August from tens of thousands of fake followers purchased on the open market from troll farms in rural India, an investigation has found,” Newsweek wrote on Monday.
“Within two weeks of Biden selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate on August 12, his Twitter following jumped by 738,595 new followers—a 9.1 percent leap. The number hit 11 million by the third week of October.
A close examination has revealed unusual patterns. A large number of Twitter accounts that followed Biden’s appear to have been created exclusively for that purpose. And a large number of the users are located in small towns in rural India—in places where English-speakers are rare, and from handles run by people who don’t speak English as their first language, nor appear to be genuinely invested in American politics.
A Zenger News investigation reveals that Biden’s increasing social media footprint in India came from the country’s infamous troll farms boosting his candidacy,” Newsweek said.
Sock Puppet Sweatshop
Some of the operators who worked on the campaign spoke at length about how propaganda agencies in New Delhi and Mumbai activated a widely distributed troll network to amplify Biden’s campaign impact on Twitter.
In discussions over the Telegram app, Harshit Patel and Yajpal Yadav discussed the part they played.
“This was started as an internet café by my father in the late 1990s,” Patel said, speaking in Gujarati-accented Hindi. “Back then, men came in mostly for chatting in IRC [Internet Relay Chat] rooms and surfing porn. It was brisk business. But then internet became so cheap and everyone got smartphones and business petered out. We had to rely on passengers asking to print railway tickets, fill up online forms, and get documents photocopied. But that didn’t even cover the costs of maintaining the PCs and paying the electricity bill. Things changed in 2012–13 when [Narendra] Modi started his campaign for prime minister. And this became my main business.”
Using aliases—each worker controls several hundred—they schedule tweets, check engagement stats and, at the close of their shifts, fill up a spreadsheet with their analytics from the previous day.
“I came to this because of my ideology,” said Patel, who’s a member of the youth wing of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, “but then this became my profession. My wife got herself trained in Photoshop and now we offer not only these [trolling and propaganda] services, but also content creation” that includes making memes.
“Political parties are our main clients, but even brands and celebrities who need promotion come our way,” Yajpal said. “This is a business like any other.
“We don’t pick and choose. Joe Biden the person is irrelevant to us. We got a target in August to follow him and engage with his tweets, and we did. The agencies in Delhi who we work with don’t tell us any details, and we don’t ask,” he said.
Please visit Newsweek for the full article.