Vishal Saini and Harmeet Singh of Webstreaks, Derawal Nagar, New Delhi are forthcoming and tell how the BJP had run a negative publicity campaign against Congress and has come up triumphant.
They will mention local issues in our campaign showing the negative side of the incumbent government. Saini claims: “Negative chahiye uske andar … agar wo Congress hai toh BJP ki nikali jayegi (You want negative campaign … if it is Congress then the BJP’s loopholes will be brought into open).”
In other words, social media cuts both sides.
There will be best posts and reviews in your favour, and there would be a separate team for the job. Saini promises to create 10 lakh likes on Netaji’s Facebook page: “Haan teek hai dus lakh ke aas paas tak likes chahiye (Yes … all right if you want about 10 lakh likes).” Negative feedback, if any, would be immediately deleted by Saini’s team. These likes will be generated both manually and using a software. The likes thus created will be a mix of genuine and dummy.
His friend Harmeet Singh explains how they will do negative campaign against Netaji’s opponent: “Ek aur cheez ho sakti hai iss kaam mein ki jaise page hum apni positivity show karne ke liye kar rahe hain na … wahi cheez hum unki negativity show karne ke liye ek alag page banayein … ki jaise matalb … why not choose … why not elect Congress … yahan pe (One more thing can be done … we can create a page to show negativity of that fellow the same as way we are creating a page to show our positivity … I mean, for example, tell them why not choose … why not elect Congress … here).”
Harmeet gives an idea how they can destroy the reputation of our political opponent with the help of a video: “… hum kya kar sakte hain ek teen minute ka sarhe teen minute ka … wo bana liya … ijkse andar uske jitne kaale kaam hain wo likhte rahenge aur usko itne aise ache artistic tareeke se dikhaya ki banda bore bhi nahin ho raha aur dekh bhi raha hai … pehle image aa rahi hai fir text aa raha hai … ye dekho ye isne kiya hai iska saboot ye raha … ye isne kiya hai iska saboot ye raha (… what we can do is we can make a three-minute or three-and-a-half minute long video … in which we will describe all his misdeeds … and this will be depicted in such an artistic way that the visitors will not get bored watching it … the image will show up first, then will follow the text … [telling the watcher] look the fellow has done this and the proof is here).”
This video will be uploaded and promoted through viral marketing, chips in Saini. It is like spreading rumour. An example of this viral marketing, according to Saini, is the recent riots that took place in Muzaffar Nagar of Uttar Pradesh.
Viral marketing against our opponent will be done using a fake ID and assembled laptop. Listen to Saini: “Viral marketing ke liye ek bilkul fake ID … laptop assembled (For viral marketing [we will use] a fake ID … an assembled laptop).” Both the fake ID and the laptop used thus are destroyed after they have served their purpose, without leaving a trace.
I don't actually see a problem with detailing wrongdoings of election candidates - as long as the wrongs are real and not invented slander. However, the need to use fake IDs and disposable laptops clearly indicates that the videos may not be above board.
Operation Blue Virus by Cobrapost details the kind of services offered by IT companies for a fee. Operation Blue Virus, an undercover investigation by Cobrapost, shows how IT companies across the country are engaged in a racket of reputation management, offering fake fan-following on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and negative publicity to sully the reputation of a political leader, or a corporate house, for money. Among their clients are corporate houses, big or small, NGOs, scam-tainted senior government officials, individual politicians and political parties.
Posing as a front man for an imagined politician from an opposition party, Cobrapost Associate Editor Syed Masroor Hasan, approached over two dozen IT companies. The Request:
Netaji, his master, wants to launch a campaign on social media before coming assembly elections. But his opponent’s reputation has to be destroyed with negative publicity, simultaneously. This will help Netaji win not only assembly election with a handsome margin but also a Lok Sabha ticket in parliamentary elections due in 2014, and then a Cabinet berth. Budget is not a problem.
While it is hardly surprising that IT companies readily agreed to create fan followings, the shocker is that none of the companies refused to destroy the reputation of his supposed political opponent. Unsurprisingly, some offered to hire journalists or even detectives to throw muck at Netaji’s opponent. But utterly unbelievable are offerings of services like buying votes of the poor and spreading rumours or exploding a bomb to force a particular minority community stay indoors on polling day, so bogus votes could be cast. The asking price for these reputation management services ranged from a few lakhs to a couple of crores, to be paid in cash.
Many of these malpractices violate various laws, such as the Information Technology Act 2000, the Representation of the People Act 1951 and the Income Tax Act 1961, and are as such punishable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Operation Blue Virus reveals that if the claims of the companies exposed are to be believed, among political parties, BJP is at the forefront in social media campaign, so is its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, with scores of companies working overtime for him. This puts a question mark on the claims of the BJP leadership that there is a wind blowing in favour of their party and Narendra Modi. The larger-than-life-image that Team Modi has assiduously carved out for Modi over the past one decade may not be that real, rather invented, and is reminiscent of the Goebbellian propaganda, to sway the opinion of gullible public. It is no surprise then that even a milder criticism of the BJP’s star campaigner invites scathing attacks from his followers on social media, claimed to be in millions in count.
However, more disturbing is the use of social media for fanning communal sentiments by vested interests. Social media has its share of blame for riots in Muzaffar Nagar or the exodus of Northeastern ‘Chinis’ from cities across India. What requires to be done in the wake of Operation Blue Virus is a thorough investigation into the functioning of the IT companies in question and bring them to justice and a revisit of country’s cyber laws to plug the loopholes, both in letter and in implementation, without impinging on freedom of speech. Otherwise, it will be not too long before social media, ubiquitous, unbridled and untamed, becomes the bane of society with all its attendant ills.
IT Companies exposed in the sting:
Bipin Pathare, Om Consultancy Services, Andheri East, Mumbai
“Ab ye dekho ismein na ismein kitne part hain ek hai part Adiba karke na … aap maloom hoga aapko ki itna Adiba ka hai 233 Adiba ka hai … toh aapko suppose iska voter dekhne ka hai kitna 112 mein toh aapko voters milenge … kitne voters hain … haan 1141 hain" Read More about illegal IT services Bipin Patare of Om Consultancy offered
Trikam Patel, Co-Founder, Triams, Bangalore
“Uske liye kya hai na shaitan dimaag chahiye hota hai … wo thode aise hi gunda gardi log rehte hain na wo hi karte hain … ye jo iske liye detective agencies hain unko kaafi doston ko bhi jaanta hoon wahan pe unke … mere clients hain websites wagaireh maine banaye hue hain … unko main approach karke ek do bando ko laga doonga … toh dheere dheere se unka kya subject hai kahan pe jaate hain kahan pe aate hain … unke personal relations kuan hai kya hai … poore jo bhi jaankari hum logon ko dete hain wo hum log database mein store karte hain” Read more about illegal IT offerings by Trikam Patel of Triams
"Hum ek random blogger create kar denge wo bhi US se directly … aur Facebook pe Facebook pe aaj jitna yahan pe negative publicity karoon main agar doosre jo aap layenge humare saamne ki bhai ye thoda sa mudda uthayein jo negative usko aap uthayein … wo hum yahan pe uthayenge usko" Read more from Vivek Arora's idea of IT services
Vishal Saini; Harmeet Singh, Webstreaks, Derawal Nagar, New Delhi
"Negative chahiye uske andar … agar wo Congress hai toh BJP ki nikali jayegi .... Viral marketing ke liye ek bilkul fake ID … laptop assembled" Read more on how to trash competitors
Sanjeev Singh; Ravi Agarwal, Webolaxy, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi
Agam Panwar and Rakesh, Blue Sapphire Creations, Lajpat Nagar, Delhi
“… humne kai logon ke ORM kiye hain … jaise humare Google pe kisi ka galat naam aa gaya ki bhai ismein ye corruption hai funs gaya kaam … ye iss officer ne chori kiye hain … usko saaf karne ka kaam jo hai wo humne kiya … usko saaf karne ka kaam jo hai wo humne kiya hai …" more on how to clean scam stains