The 2019 elections will get played out on social media, as much as in the heat and dust of the Hindi heartland, the gateway to the Delhi sultanate.
With over 30 crore monthly active users on Facebook and more than 20 crore on WhatsApp – with the Narendra Modi app alone able to reach 1 crore people in a day — the EC had a formidable task ahead of it. Choosing not to remain a silent spectator, it has laid down certain ground rules which critics say can at best serve as some kind of a poll advisory.
As per these ground rules, political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification. Also, candidates will be required to furnish details of social media (SM) account and all expenditure on social media campaigning will be part of election expenditure account.
The social media platforms — Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — have promised to play along. These agencies will also highlight political ads on their platforms, so that all and sundry know that they are looking at an advertorial.
Facebook and Google have also deputed a dedicated grievance officer to receive complaints of any violation of EC guidelines. The officer will keep a check on fake news and hate speech. Many of these ‘political’ ads are funded by ghost advertisers without any proper disclaimer.
However, social media platforms will not be made to censor political content 48 hours ahead of polling, to maintain the so called “campaign silence.”
A parliamentary panel earlier this month raised grave concerns regarding Facebook’s ability to prevent misuse of its platform during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The social media company had admitted it doesn’t “always get it right” regarding content moderation on its platform.