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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Exposé proves IT firms misuse social media: Shinde

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 30, 2013
First Published: 00:47 IST(30/11/2013) | Last Updated: 10:10 IST(30/11/2013)

Endorsing the claims by an investigative website that IT companies are misusing Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to artificially boost politicians’ popularity and malign their rivals, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said his concerns on misuse of social media platforms had been proved right.

“I had raised these issues in the recent Intelligence Bureau conference. My worry is being proved right,” Shinde said, adding that he would seek more details on the Cobrapost sting named Operation Blue Virus, which was aired as a more than two-hour-long documentary in which many firms claimed to be working for BJP and Narendra Modi.

The BJP, however, trashed the sting operation as a work of the “dirty tricks department” of Congress and charged the ruling party with stooping so low in the wake of the rising popularity of its prime ministerial candidate.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitely said, “Anti-Modism is no longer merely a political philosophy. It is also commerce. Some of these websites are making a mountain of what is not even a molehill. The dirty tricks department of the Congress continues to commercially flourish. It is a different matter that even the tricks are failing to spread the dirt.”

Asked why only the name of Modi figured in the spycam conversations, Cobrapost editor Aniruddha Bahal said: “Lots of people asked me if we are targeting certain people. We are not doing that. It is not a fishing expedition also. But, we believe that if somebody is doing it then we should come out with it. There is no guarantee that these firms are not working for any other party.”

The sting claims to have exposed about two dozen little-known IT firms to be running shady operations across the country that sought to manage online reputations of individuals, political or otherwise, by either vilifying or buttressing their images, in lieu of mainly cash payments.

“Operation Blue Virus also reveals BJP is leading from the front in its social media campaign, if the claims of the companies exposed are to be believed,” Cobrapost said in a release.

Cobrapost claimed the IT firms misused social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to artificially boost politicians’ popularity by showing fake fan following and malign their rivals by posting defamatory content using IP addresses of others by hacking into them.

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