Bots are often quite useful in a digital world — they can clean your home, wash your clothes and sometimes also tweet for you. But things can go really wrong if we mess up a few lines of code. That is what seems to have happened for the Twitterbot behind the government’s Passport Seva handle.
A Twitterbot is a program (set of codes) which is used to create automatic tweets/replies on the Twitter platform. But if the program is incorrect, the bot will behave in an erratic fashion.
Sample this. As Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley hit the headlines after he revealed to a Mumbai court his role in the 26/11 attacks, Indians took to Twitter to share their views on the issue. But what followed was interesting.
@PassportSeva Support, the official Twitter handle for Indian government’s passport service, started replying to all the tweets that mentioned ‘David Headley’s passport’ with a custom message: “Thanks for ur Tweet. Pls quote file no, if not mentioned.”
Many Twitter users who were merely re-tweeting the news item titled, “After receiving new passport I visited India 8 times: Headley” got the custom message from Passport Seva.
Infact, the Twitterbot behind the verified handle replied to any random tweet that mentioned the words ‘passport’ and ‘India’.
It even replied to news agencies’ tweets who were promoting their stories through Twitter.
The Ministry of External Affair’s tech division soon noticed the error and corrected the program used in the bot.
“(issue was) taken care, we have analyzed the same,” Golok Kumar Simli, MEA’s Principal Consultant (Tech), told HT.
Many users took screen shots of the replies and posted them on Twitter, asking the authorities concerned to solve the issue. But the irony was @PassportSeva Support even replied to those tweets with the same message.
Just for fun, many tweeted random sentences to @PassportSeva Support to get the custom message as a reply.