Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in India, has been accused of running a highly misleading Twitter Campaign to persuade citizens to support a controversial law.
First, some background information: Last month, the Indian government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes it easier for non-Muslim minorities from neighboring Muslim-majority countries in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to acquire Indian citizenship.
Combined with a proposed national register of citizens, however, critics warn that it discriminates against minority Muslims in India and violates India's secular traditions.
Over the past few weeks, tens, if not more, of people in the country have taken part in peaceful protests against the law across the country. The Indian government, which has temporarily blocked Internet access and mobile communications in many parts of India to curb the protests, has so far shown no signs of legal withdrawal.
On Saturday, however, it might have found a new way to get support for it.
India's interior minister Amit Shah on Thursday tweeted a phone number that calls on citizens to call this number to "support the CAA law".
Thousands of people in India, many of whom were BJP affiliates, started today Distribution of this phone number on Twitter with the promise that anyone who makes a call will be offered job opportunities, free mobile data, Netflix credentials, and even "lonely women" businesses.
Huffington Post India called the move the latest "BJP trick" to gain support for its controversial law. BoomLive, an India-based fact-checking organization, told the ruling party about the affiliation of many of these people.
We asked a BJP spokesman and Twitter spokesman for a comment.
If the claims are true, this is not the first time that BJP has used Twitter to aggressively promote its views. In 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that a number of political hashtags that appeared in the top 10 Twitter trends in India were the result of organized campaigns.
Pratik Sinha, co-founder of the Alt News website, showed last year how easy it was to manipulate many politicians in the country to tweet certain things after accessing a Google document with prepared statements and tinkering with the content.
Last month, snowfall in Kashmir, a highly sensitive region that hasn't been connected to the internet for more than four months, started running on Twitter in the United States. It mysteriously disappeared after many journalists asked how it got on the list.
When we stretched out, a Twitter spokesman in India referred TechCrunch to one FAQ article That explained how trending topics work. Nothing in the FAQ article dealt with the question.