May 5th is a big day for all major political parties in India. The state of Karnataka is going to witness state elections and it would be one of the major elections that would also be a litmus test for social media. All the major parties have created a presence on social media and are trying to impress the young voters. Keeping aside their performance and effective usage of the medium, the Karnataka State Election Commission has announced that it would be ensuring strict adherence to poll code and cut out any misuse of social media.
Speaking to the UNI, Anil Kumar Jha, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer said the commission plans to keep a close eye on political parties and the way candidates are using the platform. If the commission finds any objectionable content then it would report to the concerned departments without much delay and violators would be booked under IPC for electoral malpractice. However, Mr. Jha further expressed that they welcome the use of the medium by parties and till now there hasn’t been any breach of code from any political party.
While elaborating more on the effort by the commission with regards to social media efforts, Mr. Jha said that the time spent on social media campaigning will be included under the poll expenditure limit for the candidates.
How will the Karnataka SEC monitor social media?
It is encouraging to see such moves from a state electoral commission. However, there are two major problems that Mr. Jha himself is aware – 1) How would the monitoring of political parties happen on social media, and 2) How will the commission calculate the time spent on social media.
The commission says that they would be keeping a close eye but hasn’t clarified how? There seems to be no mention of any monitoring product and I am sure that the SEC must be aware that it is not possible manually. Rest what would be defined as ‘misuse’? Is the SEC planning to come out with social media guidelines for the political parties? With elections standing right at the door, I am supposing that this is not on the list at least for now.
Additionally, the commission also plans to count social media campaigning time under the poll expenditure limit for the candidates. Though Mr. Jha has expressed that it would be tough to keep an account on such activities but again they would be keeping a close eye. Not sure what Mr. Jha means by keeping a close eye.
But the commission can think of keeping a track of the expenditure of advertisements being done by the political parties on social media. A required move that was announced by the EC during the legislative elections conducted in Meghalaya and Nagaland, earlier this year.
It is high time when the electoral commission of the country and the state electoral commissions sit down and issue rational social media guidelines for political parties.
Image courtesy: www.thehindu.com