Elections and Social Media (1 October 2020)
Elections and Social Media (1 October 2020)
Why in News:
Assembly Elections in Bihar and by-elections in some other states have been announced.
During the Covid-19 pandemic social media is likely to play a very important role in these elections. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis said on 28 September that social media is going to play the most important role in the upcoming Bihar Assembly Election 2020. He said that the workers should focus on ways to attract the public through social media.
With over 560 million internet users, India is the second largest online market in the world, ranked only behind China. It was estimated that by 2023, there would be over 650 million internet users the country.
A study done by PewResearch says nearly 45% of Indian web usersconnect on social media to discuss politics.
In 2013, Election Commission of India ruled that the model code of conduct and its pre-certified political advertisement rules will apply to the social media as well. Earlier, pre-certification was restricted to print and electronic media.
|Summary of the Debate|
Role of Social Media in Elections:
- Election management had a very interesting relation with media and social media.
- Media is natural ally, in election time lot of things to be informed to the electorate. India is the largest electorate of the world, in Bihar only, it is 7.3 crore electorate. This is the largest election after the pandemic came in the world.
- Social media gave hope two decades back when it came, election management people thought that they can easily connect to millions and millions of people but soon, this type of hope became fear because even globally, the social media measures are being called to legislative committees whether it is Facebook or Google, they have been asked to explain why certain wrong things are happening.
- In India, even relating to covid-19, there is penalty on bad social media, the footprint is so little, election expenditure control finds it very challenging to measure the footprints and cost rate, that is why, during the last elections, not only there could be hate posts, there could be fake news, but election commission has become very serious about it.
- Dduring the last national election 2019, in which the commission was forced to almost extract from these platforms a code of ethics, model code of conduct is there which is very slattery and which has a lot of impact on political parties and process but still many times, it is the deviance is not able to be made accountable to be actioned upon.
- The people who have larger network and larger ideas in terms of penetration, they get a mileage in that, BJP has started their digital outreach much before anybody thought about it, Prime Minister had several meetings not actually political but in terms of government initiatives that he was taking, then many other leaders holding virtual rally and that way it goes on.
- In terms of voting behaviour that social media orchestrates, social media is just a fashion and style and people want to connect, but people have made up their minds for other reasons and maybe political competition is major one among them.
Influence of Social Media on Elections and Voting Behaviour in India:
- The social media have a huge impact on decision making of the people.
- Online social networks have completely changed the spreading of information by making it easy to share and digest information on the internet
- Earlier, it was generally one-way communication prior to advent of social and digital media. Now this is a two-way communication, the subaltern people all around have got their voices and they express their voice.
- A person is continuously fed with information on digital platforms to vote for a particular party.
- In a study, it was found that young people tend to get political information from social media more than any other age group.
- Looking at a lack of data protection framework as of now and which allows unrestricted access to personal data, now this personal data can be manipulated by political agents, this can be manipulated by different entities to spread targeted misinformation.
- Political Advertisements on social media are often misleading and cause offences.
- Online advertising is not subject to direct regulation.
- There is no limitationon volume of advertisement by any political parties.
- The online digital platforms present a particular risk in relation to fake news and disinformation.
- The distribution of the manipulative content through social media is proving destructive for the free and fair election.
- It’s not about the laws, but it’s about the enforceability of the law also. So, looking at that aspect, there is a scope of law whereas applicability and enforceability of these laws is concerned.
- There is need to have more clear regulation whereas content is concerned, whereas content is made, whereas absence of any clear legal basis is concerned, whereas amplification of specific news is concerned.
- We need to have a dedicated fact checking machine which should be so robust that election commission can have dedicated platforms to look in to that aspect.
- There is a need of dedicated laws which bring social media platforms also liable when any kind of unethical conduct is happening on their platform and after having an information or knowledge about it, they do not act upon it.
Important points made by the Guests
Akshay Rout, Former Director General, Election Commission of India
Khushbu Jain, Cyber Laws Expert
Sanjay Singh, Senior Journalist