On October 15th, 'OfficeofRG' retweeted US President Donald Trump's tweet praising American-Pakistani relations with a caption 'Modi ji quick, looks like President Trump needs another hug'. The tweet quickly reached 20,000 retweets and currently has touched 30,000.
A close analysis of this tweet showed that these alleged 'bots' with a Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian characteristic were routinely RT-ing the Congress VP's tweets. Further scrutiny of these Twitter accounts showed that the follower list was usually under 10 users and retweets comprised of random topics from across the world and those of Rahul Gandhi. Moreover, the content of these twitter timelines comprised merely of retweets and a lack of tweets which could be categorised as an original thought.
When asked about this apparent inorganic spike Divya Spandana/ Ramya, the new Congress chief of Social Media and Digital communications wrote back, "On Twitter one tweets and what happens after that is not in our control. You will have to speak to Twitter to get clarity."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani on Saturday took a dig at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi over the rise in the number of people retweeting his messages and sought to link this with twitter accounts in Russia, Indonesia and Kazakhstan.
However, Congress rejected the allegation as "factually wrong".
"Perhaps @OfficeOfRG planning to sweep polls in Russia, Indonesia & Kazakhstan?" Irani said in a tweet.
Irani attached with her tweet a news report, "Bots behind rise in Rahul Gandhi's twitter popularity?", which said that a glance at the twitter handles retweeting Gandhi's tweets does throw up some questions.
A Twitterbot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API (Application Programming Interface). The bot software may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, retweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts.
Her junior in the ministry, Rajyavardhan Rathore, compared the act to doping in sports.
"In sports, this would come under 'Doping'... hey wait!?? Does 'dope' remind you of someone," he said in a tweet.
Divya Spandana, who heads the Social Media and Digital Communications wing of the Congress, hit back at Irani and termed the news story as "factually wrong".
"Why do we need them when we have you?" she said in response to Irani's tweet.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Rajya Sabha MP who is part of NDA, also took potshots at Gandhi.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," he tweeted.
Amit Malviya, in-charge of BJP's national Information & Technology, targeted Gandhi in a series of tweets.
"Rahul Gandhi should have known that popularity can't be bought, certainly not from Russia, Kazakhstan. Congress' social media dream aborted?"
"Insincere politician that Rahul Gandhi is, he wanted to hoodwink people that he is getting popular by deploying bots!"
"In their desperation to crown Rahul Gandhi, Congress bought him some love from Russia too!"
He also hit out at Divya Spandana. "Congress social media head was on a PR overdrive on how she re-launched Rahul Gandhi.. She deployed fake bots!"