The guidelines were implemented by the Indian Election Commission.
By Praveena P.
Bangalore, April 10, 2019.
The Election Commission of India has decided on the rules for election campaigns on social media for the upcoming elections in April 2019, but the implementation of these guidelines has been difficult on social media platforms.
For the first time in India, the Election Commission has brought in guidelines for campaigning on social media, but without the support of social media companies and cybersecurity experts, the execution of these guidelines has not been completely effective. It is difficult to monitor campaigning activities on social media since there are thousands of websites and web-pages that promote political parties.
Sudharsan, an employee working at an IT (Information Technology) company named Mobinius in Bangalore said, “There is too much information on the Internet, too many websites, too many users, and fewer people to verify these political campaigns on social media. We don’t have the HR (Human Resources) to monitor every single activity on every webpage online,” he said.
One of the guidelines indicates that the candidates standing for elections will have to specify the details of their social media accounts during the time of filing their nominations.
The Election Commission also wanted social media platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to verify these ads prior to posting them. Expenditure on ads put across social media has to be mentioned accurately in the election expenditure account. IT companies are also expected to help reduce hate speech and verbal wars on social media platforms.
“It’s not like leaders are going to promote only through the social media accounts they have registered with the Election Commission. They will put up ads on many other webpages. We have no way of monitoring and controlling that,” Sudharsan added.
It is said that political parties also promote their ideas online for campaigning through IT cells, referring to social media teams favouring one specific political party. These IT cells put across their campaigning ideas despite the Election Commission’s rules.
The government is trying to enforce the guidelines, and Sanjiv Kumar, the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka said, “We have filed cases against social media platforms that are in violation of the Election Commission guidelines. So far, 154 cases have been registered under this. We are looking into the cases filed and enquiring about it.”