In an under cover operation called Operation Blue Virus, investigative website Cobrapost, exposed how technology companies in India are offering services to boost the popularity of politician, set up bots, influence opinions and even run smear campaigns against targets. One of the companies exposed in the operation, even claimed that social networking giant Facebook will depute a person in the US to help them with the project.
About two dozen such companies offering such services to clients including corporate houses, NGOs, tainted officials, politicians and political parties, were exposed in the sting. A Cobrapost editor, Syed Masroor Hasan, posed as a frontman for a ficticious politican, courted nearly 2 dozen companies in this business. His request? Netaji wants to launch a social media campaign before the elections and also destroy his opponents reputation with negative publiciy.
Here’s what the companies had to offer
- Increase fan following. Fake followers included.
- Destroy the opponents reputation with negative publicity.
- Demographic data on voters, divided on linguistic & communal lines.
- Hire journalists & even detectives to throw muck.
- Spread rumors or explode a bomb in an area to keep voters at home.
- Inject trojan virus, hack into computers to post comments & likes on behalf of users.
- Monitor & send notices to users who post negative comments about their clients.
- Send bulk SMS by flouting Telecom Norms.
- Post abusive comments using a server in the US.
- Create fake IDs & use assembled laptops to run viral campaigns.
- Photo & videography services.
- Take down websites using hackers from Russia
All this for money. The cost ranged from a few lakhs to crores, payable in cash.
Here are some of the revelations
- BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has scores of such companies working overtime for him.
- One company offered to blast crude bombs offline and spread viral campaigns online.
- A Mumbai based company has been working on a subcontract from a Bangalore based IT company for the BJP. This company was also engaged in spreading negative messages against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
- A Bangalore based company offered to use different IP addresses to avoid detection and give it a “pan India” nature.
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