While Putrajaya has been accused on numerous occasions of allegedly deploying phantom voters in the general elections, the trend appeared to have caught up with Twitterjaya during the #Merdeka55 tweet-up last night.

NONEIn conjunction with the Merdeka celebration at Bukit Jalil Stadium yesterday, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim (left) had aimed for a million tweets within an hour to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak using the hashtag #Merdeka55 on Twitter.

The target was shattered as national news agency Bernama reported a total of 3,611,323 tweets containing patriotic messages accompanied by the hastag #Merdeka55 were tweeted to the premier.

However, Twitter research firm Politweet.org found that 38 percent of the tweets were potentially questionable as they may have come from bots - software which controls multiple Twitter accounts.

This was based on a sample of about 107,000 tweets it collected from some 19,000 users within the same time-frame.

Of this, 38 percent of the tweets came from 14 percent of the said users, all of which had used TweetDeck.

"That's 41,000 tweets from 2,761 users. These were the likely spammers," Politweet.org said in a Facebook posting in its preliminary analysis of the tweet-up.

A flurry of spam tweets 

TweetDeck is a supporting platform for Twitter, allowing a user to manage multiple accounts at any one time.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that the analysis included all #Merdeka55 tweets including to other politicians and not exclusively to Najib.

Najib merdeka botProducing a screenshot of 15 users tweeting identical messages to the premier, Politweet.org said there was a noticeable use of bots tweeting the exact same tweet at precisely the same time.

Another bizzare example, it said, was 63 users tweeting identical messages with the hashtag #Merdeka55 that they were eating curry mee at Queensbay Mall while listening to patriotic songs.

It read: "Eating mee curry in Queensbay at the food court and "Keranamu Malaysia" song being played. So #Merdeka55 mood! @NajibRazak"

Despite the red flag, Najib's twitter account had unwittingly re-tweeted (re-posted) some of the identical messages from the suspected bot users.

An example was the premier re-tweeting the identical message "Sambutan Ulang Tahun #Merdeka55 Terbaik!" (#Merdeka55 anniversary celebration is the best) from users Mansor Nor, Nadaraja and Tan Chor Khai in succession.

All three users appeared to have only began tweeting yesterday. 

Bot army after Twitter politicians

Avid politicians on Twitter, too, were spammed with an avalanche of identical #Merdeka55 messages.

Bukit Lanjan state assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong uploaded a picture on Twitter showing several users tweeting at her with the message: "Jom ucap Selamat Hari #Merdeka55 to DS @Najib Razak" (Lets wish #Merdeka55 day to Najib Razak) concurrently.

Politweet spam"Spammed by bots earlier, same message, same time by 30 accounts. Some same (profile) picture. 3 million (tweets) cited (is) doubtful," she said in a Twitter posting.

A check on the Twitter accounts allegedly controlled by bots revealed that they had mass-posted the identical #Merdeka55 message to a laundry list of Pakatan Rakyat politicians on Twitter.

An example was an account by the name of @Rusli_Katmin which had a total of 44 tweets, 39 of which were only posted last night.

While the total tweet record may have been tainted by 'phantom tweeters', Politweet.org did not dispute the total figure cited by the government.

This, it said, is based on a benchmark against the recently concluded US Republican convention which garnered some four million tweets at a rate 3,306 tweets per minute.

"#Merdeka55 peaked at 2052 tweets per minute. So if 3,306 tweets per minute gave four million tweets, it is believable that 2052 tweets per minute gave 3.6 million tweets," it said.

'A million possible without bots'

Politweet spam attack merdeka day
In an immediate reaction to the analysis, some Twitter users expressed disappointment at the possible use of bots despite the realistic target with the country's large social media user base while others poked fun at the allegation.

"I seriously believe we could have achieved one million genuine Merdeka tweets without the tweetbots. Such a pity. Who's idea was it?" said Twitter user Aisehman.

Another user nicknamed Dinesweri said: "Is there any part-time tweet bot job available? Heard that the job offers a high pay."

Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang who has close to 30,000 Twitter followers, however, dismissed the bot allegation as opposition propaganda.

"They'll always dispute whatever achievement by Malaysians. Even today #Merdeka55 & just like what DAP leader condemn Lee Chong Wei on Olympics," he said in a posting.- malaysiakini