Last Updated on November 3, 2020
Just after the Biden campaign announced that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), was joining the ticket, a large spike in Twitter followers emerged for the Biden-Harris campaign. But a recent investigation into Biden’s social media following shows that huge bump was paid for; those “followers” were from troll farms in India.
An in-depth examination of the Biden campaign’s social media followers by Zenger News revealed that Biden’s increased social media footprint came from the India’s infamous troll farms. Without question, this falsely generated facade boosted his candidacy.
On August 12, 2020, just two weeks after Biden announced that Harris would be his running mate, his Twitter following jumped by 738,595 new followers. That equates to a 9.1 percent leap. His total number of followers hit 11 million by the third week of October.
But a close examination of this increase in followers revealed unusual patterns.
A significant number of Twitter accounts that suddenly started following Biden and his campaign were apparently created specifically for that purpose. Add to that the fact that a large number of the “followers” were located in small towns in rural India and in places where English-speakers are considered an anomaly.
The handles – or usernames – were also owned by people who don’t speak English as a first language. Neither do they look to be legitimately invested in American politics.
Two of the troll farm operators who executed the Biden campaign spoke to Zenger about how social media manipulating agencies in New Delhi and Mumbai triggered a huge troll network to amplify Biden’s campaign on Twitter.
“We don’t pick and choose. Joe Biden the person is irrelevant to us,” Yajpal Yadav, based in the eastern India town of Patna, said. He is the owner of a cybercafé that doubles as a hub for the massive troll farms of India.
“We got a target in August to follow him and engage with his tweets, and we did. The agencies in Delhi who we work with don’t tell us any details, and we don’t ask,” he said.
Yajpal sketched out a pyramid-shaped campaign structure much like that of a multi-level marketing scheme, but without the mid-level payoffs, explaining that this is how the troll farms are managed.
“There are so many levels [of subcontractors] in this, nobody can really trace anything back. We don’t even get paid through banks. We settle in cash once a month” via a popular international money transfer system named Hawala that uses shady bookkeepers outside official banking networks.
As Twitter and Facebook remain in the hot seat over their various forms of censorship targeting the American information consumer – as well as many news outlets that seek to keep them informed, it would require the willing suspension of disbelief to think that Twitter executives did not see the same irregular patterns that were recognized by the Zenger investigation.