POLITI­CIANS LOSE FOL­LOW­ERS AF­TER TWIT­TER CRACK­DOWN

A project by IIIT-Delhi finds only 32% of Twit­ter han­dles used dur­ing 2014 poll are ac­tive to­day ‘Pres­ence’ (of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers) is much higher than dur­ing 2014 polls, ac­cord­ing to the study

Business Standard - - FRONT PAGE - NEHA ALAWADHI

As al­le­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal bias add to the woes of Twit­ter in In­dia,

an in­de­pen­dent study on the Twit­ter pro­files of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Congress Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, has found many of them los­ing sev­eral thou­sands of fol­low­ers af­ter a Novem­ber crack­down by the mi­croblog­ging plat­form on fake pro­files. While Modi lost around 100,000 fol­low­ers, Gandhi saw his Twit­ter fol­low­ers di­min­ish­ing by close to 9,000 af­ter the clam­p­down. NEHA ALAWADHI writes

As al­le­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal bias add to the woes of Twit­ter in In­dia, an in­de­pen­dent study on the Twit­ter pro­files of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing that of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Congress Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, has found many of them los­ing sev­eral thou­sands of fol­low­ers af­ter a Novem­ber crack­down by the mi­croblog­ging plat­form on fake pro­files. While Modi lost around 100,000 fol­low­ers, Gandhi saw his Twit­ter fol­low­ers di­min­ish­ing by close to 9,000.

Twit­ter had car­ried out a sim­i­lar ex­er­cise glob­ally in July last year which saw the prime min­is­ter’s fol­lower count go­ing down by around 300,000. Gandhi’s ac­count lost about 17,000. Sev­eral other pub­lic fig­ures, in­clud­ing Twit­ter CEO Jack Dorsey lost fol­low­ers at the time.

The study, led by In­draprastha In­sti­tute of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Delhi (IIIT-Delhi), is part of a larger at­tempt by the in­sti­tute to study so­cial me­dia pat­terns be­tween the 2014 and 2019 gen­eral elec­tions. It has an­a­lysed 925 In­dian po­lit­i­cal han­dles, in­clud­ing the user ac­counts of all the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures.

Some other ac­counts that lost a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of fol­low­ers were those of Kiren Ri­jiju, MoS for Home Af­fairs; Bhu­pen­der Ya­dav, Na­tional Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the BJP, and Anurag Thakur, Chair­man of the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on IT.

The study, which be­gan last year, found most prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal lead­ers saw a con­sis­tent rise in their fol­lower count be­tween Au­gust and Septem­ber. How­ever, in Novem­ber, af­ter the crack­down, there was a dip in the fol­lower count. The num­bers, how­ever, have started ris­ing again.

“It is too early to make com­par­isons with the 2014 anal­y­sis, but some of the ini­tial trends are in­ter­est­ing. For in­stance, the sheer amount of pres­ence (of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers on Twit­ter) this time is much higher. Of the 925 han­dles we are study­ing, over 500 are al­ready ver­i­fied. That was not the case in 2014,” said Pon­nu­rangam Ku­maraguru, a pro­fes­sor at IIIT-Delhi and Hy­der­abad.

The study has also shown a few other trends. For in­stance, it found 21 mil­lion posts by roughly a mil­lion Twit­ter han­dles in the anal­y­sis of 2014 gen­eral elec­tions. Of these, only 31.64 per cent of the han­dles are still ac­tive. An ac­tive ac­count, ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute, is one that has made at least one tweet in 2018.

Fac­ing a back­lash in most of the coun­tries it op­er­ates in for not han­dling abuse on its plat­form ef­fec­tively, Twit­ter be­gan weed­ing out fake pro­files on the plat­form last year. In July, it an­nounced it will carry out this ex­er­cise, and Modi’s pro­file lost about 300,000 fol­low­ers, mak­ing it among the top pro­files to lose their fol­lower count. The Novem­ber crack­down, which was unan­nounced, saw the mi­croblog­ging site it­self lose 2.4 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

Twit­ter has been em­broiled in con­tro­versy since some time now for its al­leged po­lit­i­cal bias against rightwing po­lit­i­cal han­dles. On Fe­bru­ary 3, an out­fit called the Youth for So­cial Me­dia Democ­racy protested out­side the of­fice of Twit­ter In­dia ask­ing the com­pany to change its pol­icy on block­ing or re­mov­ing con­tent. Just days back, the firm was in news af­ter its top of­fi­cials and CEO re­fused to ap­pear be­fore a Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee over “safe­guard­ing cit­i­zens’ rights on so­cial/on­line news me­dia plat­forms”. The com­mit­tee has resched­uled the hear­ing for Mon­day. Mean­while, Twit­ter has strongly re­futed al­le­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal bias.

“Twit­ter does not re­view, pri­ori­tise, or en­force its poli­cies on the ba­sis of po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy. Ev­ery tweet and ev­ery ac­count is treated im­par­tially. We ap­ply our poli­cies fairly and ju­di­ciously to all. If there are 'false pos­i­tive' de­ci­sions, these are not po­lit­i­cal state­ments of in­tent; they are the ba­sic hu­man er­ror rate of run­ning the fastest, most open con­ver­sa­tional tool in the his­tory,” said Colin Crow­ell, Global Vice Pres­i­dent, Pub­lic Pol­icy, Twit­ter, in a state­ment on Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.