The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) bill has got a massive boost from the BJP government — huge political rallies, online campaigns and what not — but now that also involves scams promising free Netflix accounts and the opportunity to talk to girls. As protests against the contentious act continue across the country, the Indian central government seemed to have taken social media marketing to a new level.
While the government backing #IndiaSupportsCAA trends on Twitter is not surprising, the campaign also involves asking supporters to give a missed call to a helpline to support CAA.
— BJP (@BJP4India) January 2, 2020
While genuine accounts urged users to call the number, other accounts tweeting pro-CAA content not only liberally promoted the number but also tricked unsuspecting users into calling by promising various things, all of them fake.
CAA ‘Supporters’ Promise Sex, Fear And Free Netflix
Not only go many of the accounts tweeting the support line number looked fake, their profile pictures also showed women and many tweets said that the women were distress. The messages asking followers to call the number to help a woman in distress seem particularly dastardly given the spate of violence against women in India and concerns of women safety.
Other accounts promised free Netflix usernames and passwords. Though Netflix silenced these scams with some humour. “If you want free Netflix please use someone else’s account like the rest of us,” the company’s India account tweeted.
Unsurprisingly, the campaign has given more ammunition to the government’s critics on social media. The opposition leaders accused the ruling government of running a highly deceptive social media campaign to trick citizens into supporting a controversial law.
Inc42 has contacted Twitter to understand what steps will be taken to stop the blatant use of the platform to spread rumours and misinformation. The company did not respond to our questions till the time of publishing.
Is The Indian Government Spreading Fake Fear
Previously, protests against CAA have raised concerns about the privacy as the government authorities are using drones for surveillance. Many digital rights activists are calling the act of mass surveillance is illegal. The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), and Indian organisation which advocates for the protection of digital rights and liberties, had also written to the Director General of Civil Aviation urging for urgent action.
Last month, the UP government suspended internet services in 21 districts including the capital Lucknow, Meerut, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Kanpur, and Varanasi among others. At the time, the state government claimed that this was a precautionary measure to maintain law and order in the country. But many reports have since claimed unchecked violence inflicted against protestors and other residents of UP.
Ironically, the internet shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, parts of Delhi, and other regions in India were supposedly put in place to check the spread of rumours. Considering the blatant use of Twitter to spread fake fear and promises, the government is perhaps one of the biggest culprits of the crime it claims to be prosecuting.