ISLAMABAD, Oct 31 (APP): The Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) is exposed to be using illegal software to amplify its agenda and manipulate social media trends, with the tech experts urging the social media companies to improve their governance and take down fake accounts.
The proscribed outfit, which has created uncertainty in the country due to its violent protests, is mainly banking upon fake news and trends to provoke the religious sentiments of the people and trigger violence which has also claimed the lives of the policemen. The economic loss worth Rs 35 billion so far is apart from the life loss.
In an extensive study to investigate the platform manipulation, the G5 Internet Observatory, examined 322,999 tweets (including retweets) for three hashtags run by TLP including #Labbaik Namoos-e-Risalat March, #Jangon Walay Nabi ki Aamad and #Kal Tak Mua’hida Pora Karo, besides another 26,491 tweets concerning #FATF.
In total, the Observatory carried out the analysis based on 349,490 tweets across the four hashtags.
The G5 Internet Observatory – a digital forensic arm of Islamabad Policy Research Institute – carries out studies on “Internet using data & analytics to develop insights for policy & public interest besides “research on bias, polarisation, fake news & platform manipulation.”
According to the study, the TLP’s three hashtags, though trending on different days, but followed a similar pattern of surging at the early phase and dying down as the day progressed.
“The similarity in pattern reveals a concerted and coordinated effort to push certain narrative because at the peak of a trending hashtag more than 400 tweets were posted in each minute which equals to approximately 7 tweets a second,” the study revealed.
While examining the aspect of the prevalence of humans and bots to manipulate the platform, it was revealed that hundreds of the users were classified as more likely to be a bot.
“Another feature that makes TLP trends more of a coordinated platform manipulation is the lack of sparsity of the network which in other words mean everyone or most of the nodes (users) are linked to each other either through retweeting the same content, having other people in their follower’s network or by liking tweets by users belong to the same network. On the other hand, the FATF network looks very sparse with fewer connections and more green and blue dots that indicate the prevalence of human-like accounts (users),” according to the Observatory.
The Observatory also highlighted an important aspect concerning the governance of Twitter like taking down such accounts that actively use their platform in artificial narrative amplification “which according to its policies is prohibited.”
It observed that a lot of such accounts continued to work without facing any consequences.
In contrast, it said the FATF graph shows a completely different picture where with a relatively stable growth of accounts that were created over the span of one year.
The study reveals that before every campaign launch, the TLP makes accounts in bulk which of course are used for amplification purposes but some of the accounts that are left unchecked by Twitter or don’t get banned continue taking part in other similar campaigns run by the group.
The study also recommended the social media companies to deploy more resources in preventing the manipulation of their platforms; pay attention to non-English and international right-wing actors and incorporate local laws and governance structures in the countries they operate.
According to Twitter’s help center explaining its policy guidelines, “You may not use Twitter’s services in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter… You can’t mislead others on Twitter by operating fake accounts… You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts or by coordinating with others to violate the Twitter Rules.
It also disallows “using a trending or popular hashtag with an intent to subvert or manipulate a conversation or to drive traffic or attention to accounts, websites, products, services, or initiatives.”
APP Digital Report by Ishtiaq Ahmed