Tek Frog: An App To Automate Hate, Manipulate Trends With BJP Foot Prints For Cyber Troops

Tek Frog:  An App To Automate Hate, Manipulate Trends With BJP  Foot Prints For Cyber Troops

New Delhi: Over a series of tweets in April 2020, an anonymous Twitter account @Aarthisharma08 claiming to be a disgruntled employee of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Information Technology Cell (IT Cell) alleged the existence of a highly sophisticated and secret app called 'Tek Fog'. They claimed this app is used by political operatives affiliated with the ruling party to artificially inflate the popularity of the party, harass its critics and manipulate public perceptions at scale across major social media platforms.

The Twitter handle's mention of Tek Fog – a 'secret app' that they said was able to 'bypass reCaptcha codes' allowing fellow employees to 'auto-upload texts and hashtag Trends' – caught the attention of the authors of this piece, who reached out to the individual behind the account in order to investigate the existence of this hitherto unknown app.

The Wire had set out to test what could and could not be verified in the allegations made by the whistleblower, in addition to investigating the broader implications of the existence of such an app on the public discourse and the sanctity of the country's democratic processes.

Each of the allegations made by the whistleblower were subjected to a process of independent verification through which the team sought to learn more about the different functionalities of the app, the identity of the app creators, its users and the organisations enabling its use. Via encrypted emails and online chat rooms, the individual behind the Twitter account sent several screencasts and screenshots demonstrating the app's features. The source also shared payslip and bank statements to establish their identity (on this condition that this not be made public) and that of their employers.

In subsequent stories forming part of the Tek Fog investigation, many more will explore the technology behind the secretive app and how the ruling party's political operatives used the app's organised social media manipulation campaigns around significant national events such as the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, the Delhi communal violence and the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.



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