Hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was supposed to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mahabalipuram, #GoBackModi started trending on Twitter. However, Pakistani social media accounts were not behind trending the hashtag on Twitter.
Even as major Indian media outlets claimed "Pakistan's hand behind #GoBackModi trend" in India, an Alt News report has revealed that only Indian Twitter users were responsible for the trend on October 11.
In a program by India Today aimed at analysing the tweets, a channel correspondent, Nikhil Rampal, said: "70 percent if the tweets originated from India. If you check the state-wise location map, 60 percent came from Tamil Nadu only."
To this, anchor Rahul Kanwal replied by saying that the geolocations can be tampered with as well if a sophisticated and targeted operation is being run. "I can make it seem like it's coming from Tamil Nadu but this could be the ISI as well," he said.
Furthering the claim, Rampal said: "I want to show you an example. I just tweeted from Karachi and the Twitter location is showing me in Karachi right now. When Twitter gets my data, I just use a third party fake geotag…Twitter locations can be faked very easily, Twitter trends can be manipulated from these locations because these are obtained services."
"So I fake a GPS, I put my location in Karachi and I write my tweet from New York, Chile, Antigua wherever I want to. That's how trends can be manipulated," he added.
However, a Twitter trend FAQs state that the trends are region-specific and a topic can only trend in India if users from the region tweet about it.
"Trends are determined by an algorithm and, by default, are tailored for you based on who you follow, your interests, and your location. Location trends identify popular topics among people in a specific geographic location," the FAQ states.
Twitter has specified that while there are mechanisms to provide fake geolocation, a tweet posted from one country cannot add to the trend in another country because the platform receives information about a person's location through their IP address, GPS and wireless networks or cell towers.
This means that a change in profile location does not hide a user's actual location.
The media outlets' claims are, hence, based on the assumption that thousands of users in Pakistan managed to change their IP addresses, GPS locations and all other parameters that Twitter uses to determine the location of an individual to get the hashtag to trend in India.