People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing Twitter Inc.’s logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

When A ‘Troll’ Gets Trolled On Twitter

In Nordic folklore, trolls were infamous for living in lonely places and annoying human beings from time to time. In an age of retweets, likes and shares, trolls are no different. They too surface as random, malicious and mysterious beings with only one mandate – to annoy, upset and provoke people online.

For the past few months, India’s twitter-space has been divided into two distinct camps – for and against Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric identification system. One particular anonymous Twitter handle, @Confident_India, had been mocking or trolling opponents of Aadhaar since May this year.

A Taste Of Your Own Medicine

On Wednesday, the Twitter debate took an unpleasant turn when a user by the name of @jackerhack tried to figure out who the real person was behind ‘@Confident_India’. In fact, the troll handle initially challenged Twitter users to reveal who he was by ostensibly giving out his Aadhaar number. The digits didn’t match any record in the Aadhaar database, according to users who tried to do so.

Kiran Jonnalagadda, or @jackerhack, is the co-founder of a startup in Bangalore. He tried to reset the troll’s account by entering a mobile number. He believes that Sharad Sharma, the founder of lobby group iSPIRT, is the man masquerading as ‘@Confident_India’. And when Jonnalagadda entered Sharma’s phone number on the “Password Reset” page, Twitter accepted it. This led Jonnalagadda and others to believe that Sharma is the man behind the troll account.

iSPIRT’s team are among the key people who helped develop IndiaStack, which is a set of application programming interface for massive projects such as Aadhaar and Unified Payments Interface.

But Sharma categorically denied being the troll and said that he was on the east coast of the U.S. attending to an ill family member and so, he wouldn’t be active on Twitter.

BloombergQuint reached out to Sharma on Twitter and is still waiting for a response.

While Twitter was busy on Wednesday with genuine users trolling the trolls for a change, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. When it comes to online debates turning awry, it’s always difficult to ascertain the identity of individuals. A verified account with a blue tick could be a good way to check whether the account is genuine. Also, if two factor authentication is enabled, it could be as much of a blessing as a curse.

What Is Two Factor Authentication?

It seems Jonalagadda and other users such as Nikhil Pahwa were led to believe that Sharma was behind the troll account because to reset the account, they used Twitter’s two-factor authentication tool. This is an extra layer of security for your Twitter account where a code is sent to a user’s registered mobile number. This ensures that only genuine users can access their account.

Caveat: One can always argue that someone used their mobile number for authentication to set them up. But, in that case the troll would have to access the user’s text messages in order to get the access code for the account.