The proscribed Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) used “illegal software” to propagate its agenda on Twitter, G5 Internet Observatory, a digital forensic arm of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, has claimed.
TLP used the software to create trends on Twitter using bots to provoke the religious sentiments of the citizens and trigger violence which claimed several lives of both the policemen and its supporters. Apart from the loss of human lives, the national exchequer incurred a loss of Rs. 35 billion due to the TLP protests that kicked off on 19 October.
In an extensive study to investigate the manipulative trends on Twitter, G5 Internet Observatory observed that TLP started three trends during its march towards Islamabad and used the software to amplify them.
These trends were #Labbaik Namoos-e-Risalat March, #Jangon Walay Nabi ki Aamad and #Kal Tak Mua’hida Pora Karo. Around 323,000 tweets were sent against these three trends.
According to the study, these three hashtags trended on Twitter on different days and they followed a pattern of surging at the early stage and dying down as the day progressed.
Over 400 tweets were sent each minute, meaning 7 tweets were sent in each second, which was only made possible thanks to the software.
Most of the tweets were sent from accounts that shared the same tweets, liked the same tweets, and had the same followers.
As for the humans and bots ratio, the study found that thousands of tweets against these three hashtags were sent from accounts that were categorized as bots.
Despite having strict policies against the use of bots, Twitter failed to take down such accounts and they continued to disseminate their narrative without any implications.
As always, TLP created thousands of accounts before launching these hashtags. The accounts that were not taken down by Twitter after the first hashtag trended on the platform were used in propagating the second hashtag and so on.