BJP campaign amuses some Tweeple, but annoys others


Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv

Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv (Photo credit: Slava Murava Kiss)


Kim Arora,TNN | Apr 18, 2014, 05.48 AM IST


NEW DELHI: BJP IT cell’s latest digital campaign has left many on Twitter equal parts amused and annoyed with some users alleging it to be a form of spamming. Through Wednesday and Thursday, the official verified handle of the party, @BJP4India sent out automated replies to tweets containing keywords such as “Modi”, “NaMo” and “BJP” with the message: “5 phases still to go. No need to be complacent. Make sure you vote. #ModiNeedsEveryVote”, along with a Vine video of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. The account posted this tweet close to 43,000 times by Thursday 11 am.Quite unintentionally, one presumes, the automated replies also went to @narendramodi, Modi’s own official Twitter account and also to Congress leader @ShashiTharoor. With a code scanning the tweets for keywords, it did not discriminate between political leanings, caste, colour, or indeed, nationalities. “Surprised. M a #Pakistani, why @BJP4India wants my vote& murderer Modi asking me to vote? #ZulmKiPukaarModiSarkar,” tweeted Pakistani activist Farah Lodhi. Strangely enough, one tweet Russian script also received a reply encouraging the user behind the handle to vote.

Many saw the exercise as spam. “spamming the twitterverse will backfire,” tweeted @queerindia, responding to the automated reply. @chekhovan tweeted, “Let’s see if @BJP4India tweets me their auto spam after I mention NaMo Narendra Modi, and #BJP. @ajayendar said, “Hey @BJP4India one more spam tweet and I’m blocking you.”

Twitter’s own community guidelines do not permit such mass replies. “The @reply and Mention functions are intended to make communication between users easier, and automating these processes in order to reach many users is considered an abuse of the feature. If you are automatically sending @reply messages or Mentions to many users, the recipients must request or approve this action in advance,” says the message on the Twitter support center web page.

Phone calls and messages to EC for comments on the subject went unanswered.

BJP IT cell national head Arvind Gupta, however, sees it as a “good convergence” with their TV and radio campaigns, and “innovative use” of Vine videos. “It is an extension of the functions that Twitter supports. These are not marketing messages being sent out from non-verified handles. Nitpickers say it is spamming,” says Gupta, claiming to have got a “mostly positive” feedback for this exercise. At around 12:24 on Thursday morning, one could see around 20 new tweets by the minute on the @BJP4India account.

Gupta also points out that when the BJP manifesto was released, those tweeting with the hashtag #BJPManifesto received an automated reply with a link to the document on the party’s website. “Our basic message is that every vote counts. An individual user does not get more than two replies,” says Gupta.

Twitter responded to a detailed questionnaire saying, “We do not comment about individual accounts. The Twitter Rules provide guidelines about permitted use of the service. Those rules make clear that spamming is not allowed. We take action when content is reported to us that breaks our rules.

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