POLL Panel Brings Social Media on Its Scanner

WITH the  announcement  of seven  phases  elections to elect the 17th Lok Sabha and four legislative assemblies for the formation of new federal and governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim by the Election Commission of India, political parties have geared up for readying electoral strategies besides selecting candidates. These include sops to rope in gullible voters. Promises which cannot be honoured will be made since the commitments listed out in election manifestos are yet be brought under the poll watchdog’s surveillance. Their non-fulfilment  is also not subject to scrutiny  by the nation’s  highest judiciary. However, they have to stand trial at the people’s court during elections. An estimated 90 crore Indian voters will elect the 543 members to India’s Lower House of bicameral Parliament between April 11 and May 19 since the tenure of the current Lok Sabha will expire on June 3. The results will be declared on May 23. Assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir now under Central rule have been deferred due to security reasons annoying the regional political leaders. As with the announcement of previous poll timetables, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force with immediate effect across the country. About 10 lakh polling stations will be set up this time as against about nine lakh in 2014.The ‘Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail’ (VVPAT) will be used in all polling stations to enable voters know  in whose favour they exercise franchise. However, what is noteworthy and appreciable is that unlike during previous elections, the Election Commission has now formulated  a slew of  measures including  tightening the noose on social media which are being misused to  mislead  electorate through  character assassination , lampooning  and false  information against   political opponents. Videos, most of which are doctored, and political advertisements on social media will be on under its scanner. Political parties, government officials and individuals who use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and other digital platforms for conveying poll related messages have to adhere to the poll watchdog’s prescribed ethics. AS EC claims, IT giants have assured it to take stringent action against hate speeches now flooding the social media and ensure monitoring of all events on election dates using information technology. Another praiseworthy step being taken is mandating furnishing of details by candidates about their social media accounts. Facebook and Google have put in place a dedicated officer to receive and probe complaints related to violation of EC code. The belated step to tackle freedom of expression and democratic dissent being abused by vested interest groups on social media is commendable. As Indian voters are becoming mature, demanding and aspirational, it is more than an uphill task for the candidates to play Santa. It is advisable for them not to promise any unattainable doles. Truly, previous elections were conducted by and large peacefully with some unavoidable technical glitches in few states. It is hoped The Election Commission of India will prioritize to ensure logistical efficiency for hassle free exercise of franchise in the world’s biggest democracy providing no opportunity to the voters and the parties for voicing any grievance.(courtesy : musingsofaseniorjornalits.wordpress.com)  

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