Social Media Monitoring: New Burden for the EC?

by September 18, 2018 0 comments

Social Media MonitoringSocial media monitoring is supposedly becoming a new burden for the EC as it must execute with utmost efficiency.

If managing the world’s greatest democratic exercise fairly was not enough — the general elections of 2019 — the Election Commission of India has an added responsibility of tackling the perils and evils of social media and ensure that misinformation campaigns don’t aggravate or create flagrant situations that might be worked on by political parties for their benefit. Question is given the social media’s expansion and reach, will the poll regulator, which is besieged by the unenviable task of enforcing the model code of conduct once polls are announced, manage to handle this overload? Because the dangerous game of manipulation, misinterpretation and selective sifting of truth from facts requires almost a moment to moment hawk-eye vigil. So while seeking support from social media giants to stem misadventures of any kind, the EC has laid out a virtual campaign policy that mimicks the physical one in the run-up to the polls. It has restricted all political parties as well as individual campaigners from sending bulk messages, making calls and forwarding messages from 10 pm to 6 am. The aim is to prevent a breach of privacy of individuals. Further, the poll panel also plans to apply the protocol of prohibiting any kind of advertisement 48 hours before the voting time to the social media, too. The EC’s night-long ban notification may come as a welcome relief to individuals, all victims of pesky telemarketers and unwanted bulk SMS rollers. This, of course, only minimises the flow of traffic, negative or positive. Besides its implementation can be compromised without a strict regulatory framework. Do we remember the National Do Not Disturb Registry? The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had laid down the procedure for consumers to put forth their preferences in the “do not disturb” category to block all commercial calls and text messages from unwanted service providers, such as banking, real estate, tourism, among others. But it has barely been effective.

The larger concern is of monitoring the authenticity of campaign claims and counter-claims. Whatsapp representatives, during their meetings with the officials of the Election Commission of India, had suggested bringing about the  Verificado model in India, a collective fact-checking exercise by a consortium of mainstream newspapers to weed out rumours and doctored news. It was, in fact, even used in Mexico and Brazil. But to have a media watchdog, there is the added catch of ensuring the political neutrality of its constituents so that they can be trusted to judge freely and fairly without the baggage of affiliations. The C-Vigil app, as advocated by the ECI, may in part solve the problem. But as it has maintained, the procedure must be full-proof: From the launch of the complaint to fast-tracking the exact source of the violation to taking strict action against errants as also making it sure that the portal remains functional. The malpractice of tweaking information is not new to India. Other countries are increasingly becoming vulnerable to digital disinformation, which if left unchecked and uncontrolled, can threaten the national discourse. India must not lag behind and take on the battle upfront.

Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer

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