An independent study of the Twitter profiles of political leaders shows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi lost close to 1 lakh followers while Congress President Rahul Gandhi lost nearly 9,000 followers after the microblogging website launched an attack on fake profiles and bots in November, Business Standard reported.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, social media websites are policing themselves to come out on top as the best platform to conduct political conversations in India.
In July 2018, Twitter had conducted a similar exercise when PM Modi lost 3 lakh followers and Gandhi lost around 17,000. Other accounts that lost followers as a result of this exercise were Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Bhupender Yadav, National General Secretary of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
This exercise was unannounced and it cost Twitter's own profile nearly 2.4 million followers.
The study is being conducted by the Indraprasth Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIIT-Delhi) on 925 Indian political handles and the social media patterns between 2014 and 2019. It observed that there was a rise in followers of political leaders between August and September, and following the clampdown in November, the numbers dipped.
P Kumaraguru of IIIT Delhi said it is early to compare trends with 2014 yet and these are only interesting initial trends. "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, which was not the case in 2014," he told the paper.
The study also found that over a million Twitter handles posted close to 21 million posts analyzing the general elections in 2014 and of these, 31 percent are still active users. The Jack Dorsey-led website started weeding out fake profiles from its platform in 2018 after facing criticism from many for its handling of cyber abuse and 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," Colin Crowell, Global Vice President, Public Policy at Twitter, said in a statement.