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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.

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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.

Also Read: Report Claims, As Many As 1 Billion Indians Live in Areas of Water Scarcity
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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Facebook Down Again? Chill as The World Has Not Ended Yet

Joining the outages, Twitter’s dashboard TweetDeck went down on July 2 in Europe and the US before it was restored later

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FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

By Radhika Parashar

Imagine this: All of your favourite social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter have stopped working for an unspecified time period. Are you anxious, nervous or still a relaxed soul?

This year has seen several incidences where everyday apps faced major outages running into several hours in India. To the respite of users, they had Twitter to fall back upon as it was the only app functioning most of the time.

“Outages make us realise how much do we actually depend on Internet and apps. People even have apps that remind them it is time to drink water. And if these apps stop working, one can imagine the plight. Social media outages make me uncomfortable and restless,” Deepansh Jain, a 21-year-old college student from Mumbai, told IANS.

Managing a global user-base of over 2.38 billion people, Facebook and its family of apps, including photo-messaging app Instagram and WhatsApp, have collectively suffered five major outages in the last four months. Out of all the Facebook’s apps, Instagram experiences downtime the most.

On March 14, Facebook apps recorded their longest ever 12-hour outage. While people speculated possibilities of cyber attacks, the social networking giant denied the speculation and blamed “server reconfiguration” for its app blackout.

Following Facebook, in the last four months, Google services like Gmail, Maps and Calendar also broke down three times for users worldwide.

On June 3, Google apps such as YouTube, Gmail and Nest along with Snapchat and other web services stopped working for users in the US and Europe for four hours. As the company promised to probe the issue, a service disruption caused a three-hour long Google Calendar outage globally.

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Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are displayed on an iPhone, March 13, 2019, in New York. VOA

“App outages are scary. Personally, I instantly start fearing worst-case scenarios like if my account has been hacked. I just go blank,” said Sheena Sharma, 25, from Bengaluru.

Not just social networking apps, other Internet-backed services like voice assistants are also vulnerable to outages. On May 16, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa suffered outage in the US for undisclosed reasons.

Throughout the outage period, when users asked Alexa for assistance, it replied: “Sorry. I’m having trouble. Please try in a little while”.

Also Read- Researchers Develop an Algorithm to Predict Storms, Cyclones

Joining the outages, Twitter’s dashboard TweetDeck went down on July 2 in Europe and the US before it was restored later.

The outage report said there were “issues at TweetDeck”, with nearly 400 complaints just within 20 minutes. Down Detector said there were “problems at Twitter”.

“While all apps have faced outages, Twitter still holds the forte and brings people from across the world to vent out their frustration on its platform. As soon as any of the apps stop working, I immediately check Twitter if it is just me or an actual blackout has happened,” said Aayushi Aglawe, a 23-year-old media intern from Pune. (IANS)