KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 ― Putrajaya’s claim of setting a record 3.6 million tweets in an hour during the country’s 55th Independence Day celebration was met with disbelief by Malaysian Twitter users, who accused the organiser of rigging the bid by using “bots” to generate false publicity.
Malaysian users of the micro-blogging service continued today to pour scorn over Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim’s record-beating claim.
“Bots doing retweeting 4 thousand times, then u proud of hvg mils of tweets?” Twitter user @Amir_Shari wrote, referring to computer programmes designed to send out automated responses on the service.
Another user, Cyril Dason, tweeted on his account @cyrildason that “#merdeka55 stats online: 1,500 tweets generated 493,610 impressions, reaching an audience of 185,482 followers within the past 24 hours”, in an apparent rebuttal of the federal government’s record-setting claim.
They were responding to Rais’ announcement last night that some 3,611,323 tweets were recorded between 8.15pm and 9.15pm nationwide to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s account, @NajibRazak, containing various independence-themed messages, during the “Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled)” gathering at Stadium Bukit Jalil.
Independent online research house PoliTweet.org, which tracks social media use in Malaysian politics, had also noted the use of “bots” to increase the number of tweets for the event.
It observed that mentions of the official hashtag movement created for the event, #Merdeka55, had been generated at an unusual rate estimated at 720 tweets a minute, leading it to conclude that the messages were automated.
A check conducted by The Malaysian Insider also found new accounts on Twitter bearing the #merdeka55 hashtag that contained identical tweets posted at matching times. Some examples are available here, here, and here.
“Noticeable use of bots tweeting the exact same tweet at the exact same time, as seen in this screen-capture,” said PoliTweet.
“From 815-915pm we collected 107K tweets from 19K users. This represents a by-the-minute sample of what was tweeted. 38% of tweets came from 14% of the users, all of whom used TweetDeck,” it said on its website. “That’s 41K tweets from 2761 users. These were the likely spammers.”
The social media researcher compared the Malaysian phenomenon to tweets over the ongoing Republican electoral campaign in the US.
It noted that in the US Republican’s case, over half a million tweets had been generated on its official hashtags movement ― #RNC #GOP2012 ― and that tweets peaked at 3,306 tweets a minute yesterday at 11.04pm Eastern Standard Time.
According to PoliTweet, the usage of Tweetdeck client application to spam politicians has been going on since July this year.
It added that it will publish more data on how the phenomenon was related to Malaysia’s #Merdeka55 event later.