Tek Fog is an application allegedly used by political agents affiliated with the IT cell (IT cell) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to The Wire reports, BJP employees allegedly used the app to manipulate the media in favor of the ruling party.
According to a source, the app has been used to artificially inflate the party’s popularity, harass its detractors and influence public perceptions on major social media platforms. The Wire has independently confirmed the existence of the app and the validity of the source information.
The information first came to light after a disgruntled employee, Aarthi sharma of the IT cell, tweeted about the existence of the application. The secret app “Tek Fog” can bypass reCaptcha codes, allowing employees to automatically upload Trends texts and hashtags.
The source claims their daily tasks included hijacking the “trending” section of Twitter with targeted hashtags. They were also responsible for creating / managing several BJP affiliated WhatsApp groups and led the online harassment of critical BJP journalists. All of this was done using the Tek Fog app.
The source revealed that the party had promised to put him in a government post if the BJP could retain power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, their supposed manager, Devang Dave, former national social media and IT manager Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (the youth wing of the BJP), and the party’s current chief electoral officer in Maharashtra failed to keep his promise. .
Relevant features of Tek Fog
The Wire notes that Tek Fog has a lot of disturbing features for manipulating social media. Users can only access the app at specific locations and require three OTP checks to sign in. There are plenty of security features like this to ensure that only employees can use the app.
Diversion of the “trend” section
Tek Fog has an automated feature to “auto-retweet” or “auto-share” tweets and posts from individuals or groups. It can also spam existing hashtags with accounts controlled by app operators. According to the report, operators could hijack the “trending” section of Twitter and “the trending” on Facebook.
The hashtags were inauthentically amplified by a series of suspicious accounts throughout Tek Fog. The Wire was able to identify two distinct occasions where hashtags were manipulated to reach the trending section. One of those hashtags was #CongressAgainstLabourers.
According to the report, Tek Fog also allowed its users to generate “temporary” email addresses and activate phone numbers. It could also bypass scheduling and email / OTP verification limitations set by WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Telegram.
Phishing “inactive” WhatsApp accounts
Tek Fog could also hijack inactive WhatsApp accounts. Operators used these accounts to send messages to their “contacts frequently” or “all contacts”. Operators also used this feature to phish users’ personal information and added it to their cloud database. This database has been used in future harassment and trolling campaigns.
Database of private citizens
According to the report, Tek Fog also had a large private citizen cloud database. The app has categorized citizens based on their profession, religion, language, age, gender, political inclinations, and even physical attributes.
The report stated that operators could “automatically respond” to individuals or groups in abusive or derogatory ways (trolling campaign).
Tek Fog leaves no evidence
According to the report, Tek Fog allows operators to remove or remap all existing accounts. This characteristic helped them not to leave any traces that could incriminate them.
The companies behind Tek Fog
The source claimed that Persistent Systems (IT services company) and Mohalla Tech Pvt. Ltd. were closely involved in the whole operation. Mohalla Tech is the company behind Sharechat, a popular regional Indian language social media platform funded by Twitter.
The source claimed that the operators were using Sharechat to test and organize fake news, political propaganda and hate speech. The social media app has had issues in the past due to fake news, hate speech, and privacy concerns.
The Wire has also identified a list of websites and services accessing the app. The list included Sharechat suggesting direct involvement. Other websites had news platforms such as Republic World, OpIndia, ABP News, and Dainik Jagran. However, it is not clear whether they were involved or not.
Another source currently employed at Persistent Systems confirmed the existence of Tek Fog in their database. All parties, including BJYM’s Devang Dave, have denied any involvement in any such application.