The use of social media platforms has increased exponentially in India, and almost at the bottom of their merits of convenience and connectivity are the dangers of misinformation and fake news. In recent years, there has been an increase in lynching incidents based on rumors circulating on social media, and the Internet is often suspended in potentially violent situations from a political and social point of view.
According to a IndiaSpend In the analysis, between January 2017 and July 2018, at least 33 people died and at least 99 were injured in 69 reported cases.
Analysts have also often drawn parallels between developments in the political arena and the likely social media machinery that fueled them. The election campaign of BJP – Narendra Modi – Lok Sabha in 2014 is studied as a case study of the use of the media in general to create, build and promote a politician as a brand. Of the party’s victory in the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections later that year, a report from Livemint He said: “The party replicated the strategy it used in the General Election earlier this year, keeping Modi at the center of its campaign.”
The report quoted Vinit Goenka, co-convener of the BJP national TI cell, as saying: “The BJP’s election campaign in Maharashtra and Haryana was identical to his election campaign for the Lok Sabha. Modi’s popularity has helped the party. to win the states “. Ogilvy’s Piyush Pandey illustrated how the ad agency turned the party report into a campaign: We recommend that we lead with our greatest strength, Modi.
Political analysts explained the ‘Modi phenomenon’, in which “Brand Modi even beat Brand BJP”, and highlighted stagnant economic growth, rising inflation, among other themes in his campaign speeches. Business today analyst Manisha Priyam cited “the impact of this relentless campaign (was felt) on different age groups, geographies and sectors of society.”
The report further said: “After the elections were announced, his (Modi) marketing team bombarded voters with print, television and radio advertisements on the same topics. It reached voters through text messages and Modi’s recorded voice searching for votes for himself.On social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Modi has around 45 million followers on Twitter, to magnify the impact of the advertising and branding campaign.
Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections
Globally, a case that has been at the center of the debate against allowing social networks to have a free reign in the politics of a nation, is the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections in the United States. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been progressively advancing in the network around the electoral campaign of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his subsequent victory, with the arrests of several of his former aides during the campaign.
Politician explains how Russia could have launched a “massive” campaign on social media to “sow discord.” The report said: “The IRA (Internet Research Agency, a Russian ‘troll farm’) also started an operation that used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to influence the voting public in the US, mainly through thousands. of bogus and misleading “bot” accounts Advertising, according to Mueller indictment.
For example, IRA trolls produced materials intended to promote pro-Trump and anti-Clinton hashtags on Twitter, including #TrumpTrain, #MAGA and # Hillary4Prison. The alleged trolls also encouraged minority groups not to vote or vote for a third party candidate from the second half of 2016. “
2019 Lok Sabha elections and social media
Closer to home, the Indian government has been cracking down on WhatsApp to negotiate a way to regulate its use in an attempt to curb incidents of violence, which are concerned by rumors of kidnappers or livestock traders in various places. from the country. .
In August 2018, the popular messaging platform agreed to all demands from the IT ministry to verify fake news, except adding a feature that could help trace the origin of a message. However, company executives reportedly met with government officials in December to discuss the possibility of traceability, which has been reluctant to continue with its end-to-end encryption guarantee.
Executives categorically disagreed or disagreed with the demand for traceability, a report from Economic times he said, adding that more such meetings would likely be in the future.
In such a scenario, social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google have shown great awareness of the importance of transparency in political ads ahead of the crucial upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
In December, Facebook said that “anyone who wants to run political ads in India will have to reveal their name and location,” adding that the platform will provide more details on who placed the ad. Indian quartz reported: “Early next year, all politics related ads in India can only be served by authorized advertisers, and will carry a legal notice with information on who placed the ad. Facebook added that these ads will be recorded in your Ad. Online Library search, along with details on the budget behind them, and the demographics of who viewed them. “
Sarah Clark Schiff, Facebook Product Manager, in a post titled ‘Transparency in india“He said” By empowering advertisers and providing more transparency to ads, we can better defend against foreign interference in Indian elections. “
However, on Monday, Facebook told the Bombay High Court that it could not “self-censor” political ads. A division bench of Presiding Judge Naresh Patil and Judge Nitin Jamdar heard a PIL from attorney Sagar Suryavanshi, who requested a ban on political advertisements at least 48 hours before Election Day.
Facebook lawyer Darius Khambatta told the bank that while his client was ready to remove any objectionable paid political content from his site, the address for it should come from the Election Commission of India (EC) or any authority from that kind.
“We cannot implement a self-censorship system. However, if the EC or other authorities signal an announcement, we are ready to withdraw it immediately,” Khambatta said, according to a document. PTI report.
“When you can put strict conditions in the UK and the US, why are you reluctant to do so in India?” The bank asked Facebook’s attorney in response. He then ordered Facebook to submit an affidavit. The bank also asked the EC to explain at the next date what could be done in the end to regulate paid political content online. It also issued notices to Google India, Twitter and YouTube, seeking their response to the PIL.
“Social media must be responsible. The issue is important as it is about free and fair elections in the country,” the bank said, quoted by The times of India.
On the other hand, Twitter and Google announced ‘Ad Transparency Center’ and a ‘Political Ads Library’ respectively for India ahead of the elections. The feature will reportedly allow users to see the identity of advertisers funding a political ad.
Colin Crowell, Twitters Global Vice President of Public Policy, was cited as The Hindu as if to say, “One of the things that we will implement here in India is an Ad Transparency Center, in which we will provide users with pointers about promoted tweets and political advertising, such as a political ad and who paid for it.
“If you click on it, it will take you to a transparency panel that will give you additional information about the advertiser, including the tweets they are advertising and how much they are spending. We will coordinate with political candidates and parties and the Electoral Commission to implement that. “, said.
With contributions from agencies.
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