Gist of Rajya Sabha TV : Elections and Social Media

  • Published
    3rd Oct, 2020

Introduction

Assembly Elections in Bihar and by-elections in some other states have been announced. During the Covid-19 pandemic social media is likely to play a very important role in these elections. In this episode we will discuss and analyse this aspect and various challenges related to this.

Why RSTV? RSTV assumes significance as it is important to form different point of views, which is extremely helpful for aspirants in both Mains and Interview. Here, we are providing Gist of Rajya Sabha TV discussion on ‘Elections and Social Media’.

Topic relevance from RSTV Debate on ‘Northeast's Growth Potential’ for UPSC: Direct questions can be asked on:

  • Emergence of Social Media as a political intermediary to influence and achieve political goals
  • Dynamics of social media
  • deployment of new communication technologies in elections
  • Social conflicts
  • phenomenon of fake newsand misinformation
  • Responsibility and accountability with Social Media

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM THE DEBATE

Opening remark

  • The Election Commission said the polls will be held in less phases this year to minimise the movement of security personnel, to ensure their wellbeing as well as due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Bihar Legislative Assembly Elections 2020 will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and 7.
  • With this announcement, the Model Code of Conduct comes into force in the state. Bihar’s 243-member Assembly is set to expire on October 29, 2020.
  • Several countries have held elections amid the pandemic. However, the Bihar polls are likely to be the largest elections conducted during the pandemic given there are with 72.9 million electors in the state.

Social Media and its role

  • Social Media can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or agency to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content and it is explained by a number of tools, which includes blogs, Wikis, discussion forums, micro-blogs, twitter and social networking sites.
  • Social media is not security threat in itself but the users of these services can pose the threats by their anti-social endeavours. With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud.
  • Additionally, these platforms have huge confidential user information, and are likely vulnerable to outside or inside attack which is detrimental to Internal Security.

Major issues of social media

  • Misinformation and disinformation spread in media is becoming a serious social challenge.
  • The big problem with social networks is their business model. This business model has led to a “winner-takes-all” industry structure, creating natural monopolies and centralizing the once-decentralized internet.
  • Social media has enabled a style of populist politics, which on the negative side allows hate speech and extreme speech to thrive in digital spaces that are unregulated, particularly in regional languages.
  • Social Media, due to its technological capacity has enabled self-sorting and personalization of information one perceives.
  • The rise of polarizing and divisive content has been a defining moment of modern politics, which is fed by fake news propagation through social media channels.
  • Another dangerous element is the labelling and trolling of more rational voices or those who disagreed with the government’s actions or dominant public discourse as “anti-national.”

How can it be a boon?

  • Social media has led to the emergence of citizen-led governance (C–governance) in India.
  • Social media platforms help to create awareness from one another to a million and be united for any social cause. In the process, the existence of social media can nudge citizens to seek solutions.
  • Social media has made Indian politics more inclusive by allowing citizens, who were traditionally excluded from politics due to geography and demography, to gain direct entry into the political process.
  • Use of social media for policy crowdsourcing and publicity is evident in the success of pan-India campaigns such as Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and the recently-launched Fit India Movement.
  • Social media has been increasingly used by Indian political actors for routine political communication between elections to provide unmediated and direct communication to connect citizenry.

Issues with election commission

  • Over the years influence of money and criminal elements in politics has increased along with violence and electoral malpractices resulting in criminalization of politics. The ECI has been unable to arrest this deterioration.
  • There has been rampant abuse of power by the state government who at times make large-scale transfers on the eve of elections and posts pliable officials in key positions, using official vehicles and buildings for electioneering, flouting the ECI’s model code of conduct.
  • The ECI is not adequately equipped to regulate the political parties. The ECI has no power in enforcing inner-party democracy and regulation of party finances.
  • In the recent years, an impression is gaining ground that the Election Commission is becoming less and less independent of the Executive which has impacted the image of the institution.
  • One of the major institutional drawback is non- transparency in election of CEC and other two commissioners and is based on the choice of presiding government.
  • There have been allegations of EVMs malfunctioning, getting hacked and not registering votes which corrodes general masses trust from the institution.

Suggestions to revamp the elections

  • The challenge before the commission is to be vigilant and watchful against the collusion at the lower level of civil and police bureaucracy in favour of the ruling party of the day.
  • Until the controversy related to glitches in EVM settles down, commission needs to establish its trust amongst people by installing (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System) VVPATS in more and more constituencies.
  • There is a need to provide more legal support to the commission’s mandate and the processes that support that mandate.
  • As history shows, inadequate leadership is the bane of our public institutions. Safeguards to ensure that ethical and capable people head them are crucial.
  • 2nd ARC report recommended that collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as members should make recommendations for the consideration of the President for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners.

Conclusion

Social media awareness is needed which may enable citizens to be in a position to distinguish between truth and falsehood – and to know when democratic processes are being manipulated. Social Media Platforms can provide safeguards in the event that democratic processes are being intentionally disrupted or harmful falsehoods are spreading; it can help people find out what is true.

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