Tek Fog may be an app that aims to dehumanise and divide people, but our investigation into its use in 2020 also marked the beginning of our friendship.
On March 1, 2020, Ayushman and I met for the first (and only) time in person, outside a local market in Noida. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss a report I had independently published a few months earlier that highlighted the massive tweet volumes and complex hierarchies of the BJP and Congress IT Cells on Twitter. Ayushman was interested in finding common ground between his work as a research analyst at a digital forensic lab and the dataset that I had used to analyse the network of IT Cells. A day before we met, he was working on a two-part investigation into neo-Nazi groups on Telegram and was amazed at how the BJP network graph looked in one of my reports.
We planned to meet briefly over filter coffee at Lakshmi Coffee House, but the topic of studying dis- and misinformation in India was so intriguing that we kept discussing its different angles on the street for at least two hours afterwards. We finally decided to document our conversations, track the lifecycle of one of the bot accounts in the BJP and Congress networks, and meet again in a month to share and corroborate our findings. Little did we know that the country would come to a standstill in just three weeks, thanks to