A number of Twitter handles that were active in defending the industrialist when his Australia project came under fire have now trained their guns on Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
On July 18, senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta resigned as Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) editor after the directors of the Sameeksha Trust, which runs the storied journal, ordered him to take down an article on the Adani group.
Since then many academicians, journalists and readers have expressed support for Thakurta and questioned the trust’s decision to remove the article. Faced with backlash, the trustees claimed that the former editor had committed “a grave impropriety amounting to a breach of trust” in responding to a legal letter from the Adani group on their behalf without informing them or seeking their assent.
On July 28, a letter written to the trustees by the EPW staff demanding an explanation for why the trust decided to retract the article was leaked on the internet. The letter, which was supposed to be confidential, was uploaded and quickly deleted from Scribd but a version published by The Quint is now being circulated on social media. Many of the handles pushing the link are clearly social marketers tasked with maligning Guha Thakurta’s image, presumably on behalf of a client.
— Palash Karmakar (@me_palash) July 31, 2017
Guys read this article to see how EPW Staff question to guha Thakurta . https://t.co/jdSDrfWthJ
— Ranjith G 🇮🇳 (@IAmRanjith_G) July 31, 2017
— Naveen Sharma (@NaveenThisizz) July 31, 2017
— Priya (@priyasharma4211) July 31, 2017
— Saikat Gon (@gon_saikat) July 31, 2017
Interestingly, many of the accounts tweeting against Guha Thakurta were also used in April this year to tweet pro-Adani tweets when his mining company was seeking a $900 million loan from Australian taxpayers for a controversial project.
The mining and energy project, which will open a new coal province in the Australian state of Queensland to feed Indian demand, saw waves of protests from environmental groups concerned about the health of the country’s Great Barrier Reef.
The accounts used three hashtags — #Queensland, #Adani and #Carmichael — suggesting that the mine would be great for Queensland jobs. A similar pattern can be seen with tweets about Paranjoy.
A quick look at their tweeting pattern reveal some interesting characteristics – they regularly participate in contests that require a lot of tweeting, most of these handles follow each other, unlike ‘bots’ they have thousands of followers and most of them describe themselves as ‘social media enthusiasts’.
In the same month, similar accounts were used to disperse concerns regarding Adani group’s debt.
Now what is more hilarious: That SuhelSeth is an expert on Adani coal mine or that a paid army is pushing his video to support the project? pic.twitter.com/4QKfYN2hR4
— SamSays (@samjawed65) April 18, 2017
Similar handles came to Adani’s rescue when he was questioned about his debt after he tweeted about the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
GST to be a game-changer in India's ease of doing business – simplified tax, transparent systems, better compliances #OneNationOneTax
— Gautam Adani (@gautam_adani) July 1, 2017
The use of paid social media trolls to spread positive messages about demonetisation was extensively documented by FactorDaily.
BJP SM team: Go tweet "Jan dhan accounts are FULLED with money…"
Bhakts: ✅ Next? (1/n) pic.twitter.com/SxScCXMkvp
— SamSays (@samjawed65) December 9, 2016
News channels too have adopted similar practices in the past to make hashtags trend.
How to make a hashtag trend, @TimesNow-style.
not surprised tbh. pic.twitter.com/Nqn87rYQ3v
— Karnika Kohli (@KarnikaKohli) June 19, 2017
— SamSays (@samjawed65) May 10, 2017
Note: The Wire had republished the two articles on Adani that his lawyers have objected to. In deference to Adani’s demand that the second of these be removed, EPW took it down. You can read both articles here: