Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Homechevron_rightIndiachevron_rightCivil society groups...

Civil society groups raise social media misuse concern ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Civil society groups raise social media misuse concern ahead of Lok Sabha polls

In the lead-up to the anticipated 2024 Lok Sabha elections, a coalition of civil society organizations has sounded the alarm on the potential perils of unchecked technology in the electoral process.

In a comprehensive letter addressed to the Election Commission of India (ECI), these groups have underscored the urgent need for robust monitoring mechanisms to counter the misuse of social media platforms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies by political entities.

The missive, signed by a diverse array of organizations championing citizens' digital rights, transparency in elections, and the rights of farmers and labourers, delineates four primary concerns regarding the influence of technology on the integrity of the upcoming polls.

Firstly, the letter highlights the burgeoning trend of political parties splurging on targeted online advertising campaigns, potentially tilting the electoral playing field in favor of those with deeper pockets. Such campaigns, often bolstered by boosted visibility on social media platforms, have raised eyebrows among activists, who view them as a worrisome development for India's democratic fabric.

Moreover, the coalition flags the deployment of emerging technologies like deepfakes, which have the capacity to manipulate public perception and disseminate misinformation on an unprecedented scale. The unchecked proliferation of such technologies poses a formidable challenge to the sanctity of the electoral process, demanding vigilant oversight from regulatory bodies.

In addition, the letter castigates the inadequacy of the Voluntary Code of Ethics observed by social media platforms during elections, lambasting its opaque drafting process devoid of public scrutiny or civil society engagement. Drawing a stark contrast with the stricter regulations enforced in the United States and the European Union, the signatories call for a more rigorous Model Code of Conduct for social media platforms, coupled with transparent mechanisms for reporting violations.

Furthermore, concerns are raised regarding voter surveillance at polling booths, with the deployment of technologies like facial recognition casting a shadow of doubt over the sanctity of the electoral process. Such intrusive surveillance tactics not only infringe upon citizens' privacy rights but also undermine the foundational principles of free and fair elections.

During the 2019 general election period, an investigation conducted by The Reporters’ Collective and, a research organization, into social media political ads exposed Facebook's platform for allegedly favoring the ruling BJP.

The analysis revealed that the platform had provided an unfair advantage to the BJP over its political rivals.

Additionally, the study uncovered instances where a Facebook page associated with Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries had allegedly disseminated misleading surrogate ads. These ads, designed to resemble news reports, purportedly contained misinformation or distorted information taken out of context.

The aim was to portray BJP leaders in a positive light while undermining opposition figures. Despite these findings, no action was taken against the page by the social media giant.

In response to these pressing concerns, the coalition proffers a series of concrete recommendations aimed at fortifying the electoral process against the encroachment of technology. These include the formulation of stringent regulations mandating transparency in digital campaign spending, the disclosure of third-party actors engaged in social media management, and the imposition of limits on ad spending across digital platforms.

Moreover, the coalition calls upon the ECI to monitor online expenditure meticulously, ensuring that declared spending by political parties aligns with digital platform records. Additionally, it advocates for the imposition of clear definitions and strict limitations on surrogate advertising, which often masquerades as impartial content while clandestinely furthering partisan agendas.

Show Full Article
TAGS:BJPSocial MediaLok Sabha Elections 2024
Next Story