Tuesday, July 22, 2014

India's next ruling party is also one of the world's worst Twitter spammers

A phone adorned with BJP symbols and Narendra Modi's face. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks likely to win the nation's ongoing elections, which conclude on May 12th. But they may well get themselves banned from Twitter in the process.

Here's the problem. India's elections, which began on April 7th, happen in 9 shifts, called phases, over 5 weeks. The BJP's candidate for prime minister, Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is a strong candidate. He's the BJP's first real shot at holding power in ten years.

So as part of their get-out-the-vote strategy for the next five phases, the BJP has resorted to spamming everyone on Twitter. And I do mean everyone: if your tweet contains BJP, Narendra Modi, or NaMo (a nickname for him), you'll probably get an autotweet in response. It's as if any time you tweeted the words Democrats or Obama, you got a message from the DNC in response.

Here's the autotweet I got, for example:

These tweets have come up in response to angry tweets about Modi's record, commentary from Modi's Hindu nationalist supporters, and even some doomed guy who happens to have BJP in the handle of his mostly Spanish language account.

Because BJP is rapidly becoming the dominant party in the world's largest democracy, there are a ton of these tweets. Between 2:30 and 6:30 pm EST on April 16th, @BJP4India appears to have sent out about 7,000 tweets of the same message — and that was between 12:30 and 4:30 am, India time, so it'd likely be worse when people are awake. This is a gif of what following the @BJP4India on Tweetdeck looks like:

Bjp_spamming

Japanese cartoons ain't got nothing on that seizure machine.

Indian twitter users are pretty reasonably pissed off, as users would presumably like to discuss their next government without being carpet-bombed. So they complain:

What's more, this might actually cost BJP their Twitter presence. The Official Twitter Rules prohibit "large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions" and " large numbers of unsolicited @replies or mentions in an aggressive attempt to bring attention to a service or link." Doing either, according to Twitter, can result in an account's "permanent suspension."

I've reached to Twitter for comment, and will update if they respond. Until then, be careful what you tweet — unless you love hearing Narendra Modi pleading for your vote.

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