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Despite All The Efforts, Political Campaign Spends on Social Media Remain A Mystery

But even as the Election Commission has made social media companies follow certain norms, such as pre-certification of political ads to prevent misuse of the platforms, such measures are unlikely to bring adequate transparency to the whole process

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The Election Commission is in talks with the representatives of Internet companies, including social media platforms, on the use of social media for campaigning in the Lok Sabha polls while the Model Code of Conduct is in force. Pixabay

Despite all the efforts put in place by social media companies to show who is paying for the political advertisements on their platforms, the users may not know the actual amount spent to run political campaigns on these websites.

Facebook has a searchable database for political ads which anyone can access. This Ad Library report from the social media giant shows that Indians have spent over Rs 6.5 crore in over 30,000 ads related to politics since February 2019 — in the run up to the general elections.

Similarly, Twitter also has an Ad Transparency Centre which allows one to search which account has spent how much in the past seven days.

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“In terms of political ads, social media companies should allow only certified agencies to post ads. This would make the monitoring process much easier for everyone. Allowing any individual to post political ads complicates the monitoring process. This is a big loophole,” he said. Pixabay

While these efforts are being regarded as important steps towards bringing transparency in the political process, they may not reflect the complete picture of how the social media space operates, according to experts.

“Influencers play a very important role in political campaigns and 90 per cent of the transactions related to these campaigns are done through cash,” social media expert Anoop Mishra told IANS.

Knowing which party is spending how much on social media is important because much of what trends on Twitter or what becomes popular on Facebook – with potential to impact voter behaviour – may actually be due to the money and manpower of political parties while creating an illusion of organic support from hundreds and thousands of users in these platforms.

“Every political party including the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), Congress, Samajwadi Party and BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) are trying to push their agenda on social media. But those parties with greater money, manpower and tech expertise are likely to win the social media war,” Mishra said.

He added that political parties were employing a large number of people to make their propaganda material viral on social media.

twitter
Similarly, Twitter also has an Ad Transparency Centre which allows one to search which account has spent how much in the past seven days.
Pixabay

“In terms of political ads, social media companies should allow only certified agencies to post ads. This would make the monitoring process much easier for everyone. Allowing any individual to post political ads complicates the monitoring process. This is a big loophole,” he said.

“Encrypted platforms like WhatsApp could be used extensively to spread advertisements and propaganda, which could be difficult to be tracked,” added Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in), a Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services body.

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The Election Commission is in talks with the representatives of Internet companies, including social media platforms, on the use of social media for campaigning in the Lok Sabha polls while the Model Code of Conduct is in force.

But even as the Election Commission has made social media companies follow certain norms, such as pre-certification of political ads to prevent misuse of the platforms, such measures are unlikely to bring adequate transparency to the whole process. (IANS)

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Pakistani-Canadian Author Tarek Fatah: University Campus is not Immune to Politics

Seek freedom from burqa 1st, not CAA, says Tarek Fatah

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Tarek Fatah
"Those who keep their wives and daughters in Burqa at home, send them for protests," says Tarek Fatah. Wikimedia Commons

BY VIVEK TRIPATHI

Pakistani-Canadian author Tarek Fatah has said that those opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) are prone to a “separatist mindset”. Raising questions on Muslim womens’ participation in anti-CAA demonstrations, he said before seeking freedom from the new citizenship law, they must seek freedom from the veil (burqa) first.

In a special interview with IANS, Fatah said that as far as the issue of anti-CAA protest is concerned, it began first in West Bengal, where some politicians have vested interests and are keen to expand their sphere of influence into state politics. Those who have settled here from Bangladesh or the erstwhile East Pakistan want to make West Bengal a Muslim majority state in order to increase their vote share. They are the people who are opposing the new law and some politicians are backing them.

Tarek Fatah india
Fatah said, “NRC is still far away. But, as far as the CAA is concerned, what we have learnt from Assam is that it must be implemented. Pixabay

He said, “They are not like Indians. They think that if illegal migrants are not given citizenship, their plan which is all about Muslim Nationhood, will never succeed. This reflects their separatist mindset. So they have no solid ground for opposing the CAA.”

Fatah said, “NRC is still far away. But, as far as the CAA is concerned, what we have learnt from Assam is that it must be implemented. The government has openly said that it is a right step. Even Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan have such laws. I do not understand why people are opposing the CAA. If government wants to correct the data, well and good.”

Speaking about Muslim women’s participations in the protests, he said, “Those who keep their wives and daughters in Burqa at home, send them for protests. If you have the courage, why do you send your wives and children to protest. This is nothing but exploitation of children.”

Tarek Fatah India
Regarding the National Citizenship Register (NRC), Fatah said, “It seems to me that Muslims fear that if the displaced Hindus in Bengal get citizenship, then the minorities will lose their place in Bengal. Pixabay

Fatah recalled meeting a Sikh from Kabul in Delhi, saying, “He faced an identity crisis in Afghanistan and came back to India. This law is for those who have already come to India due to religious persecution, people should understand it.”

On the question of CAA protests at educational institutions, he said university campus is not immune to politics. But it should be in the right direction.

Regarding the National Citizenship Register (NRC), Fatah said, “It seems to me that Muslims fear that if the displaced Hindus in Bengal get citizenship, then the minorities will lose their place in Bengal. The entire matter is of Muslim nationality.”

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On the issue of triple talaq, Tariq Fatah said that it has nothing to do with secularism. If we speak of secularism, what is the need of Muslim Personal Law Board. And there is definitely a need of uniform civil code. Seeking secularism in CAA and boycotting triple talaq is double standard of Muslims.”

On coming to Ayodhya, he said, “I have come here for the first time. For me it was like a Haj. The decision has been made. We have to be grateful to the people who have sheltered us in India. Here is a five thousand year old civilization, Muslims came here later, they came from outside. You cannot rule here by coming from outside. This is just as the Soviet Union cannot be ruled by America.” (IANS)