In what is a deadly revelation, a sting operation has brought to light the extent to which social media is misused in the country for money. The sting by non-profit investigative news portal Cobrapost has exposed a dozen IT companies who use social media to build or defame a person’s reputation in exchange for huge amounts of money. Also Read - Mi Notebook Pro X to be Xiaomi's most expensive laptop yet, launch tomorrow
The sting, called Operation Blue Virus, had Cobrapost’s associate editor Syed Masroor Hasan posing as a potential client and approaching companies. The pretext was that he wanted to hire them for a branding campaign of a fictitious politician and the companies took the bait. In exchange for money, the companies promised to generate hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers who would say positive things about this “politician”. They also promised to upload promotional videos on YouTube and make them viral and also send promotional SMS and emails in bulk. Additionally, they also offered to start a negative publicity campaign against this politician’s opponents for extra money. Also Read - Ola to offer free oxygen concentrators to the needy
Cobrapost reveals that the client list for these companies ranged from corporate organizations, NGOs, government officials and politicians and their parties. The news portal, in particular, points out an individual called Bipin Pathare who runs Om Consultancy Services in East Mumbai. It says that Pathare is one of the most “ruthless” of the lot who in addition to providing details like poll-booth demographics, also offered to spread false rumors about bomb blasts on the day of elections.