Cell to keep close watch on social media campaigns

Mysore/Mysuru: Amidst the ongoing surge in the utilisation of social media by political parties, candidates and their supporters, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is closely monitoring these campaigns.

In a concerted effort to uphold the integrity and fairness of the electoral process and to embrace technology and expertise for transparency, the Mysuru District Administration has established a dedicated Social Media Monitoring Cell at the new Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Siddharthanagar, following the ECI’s directives.

Led by Nodal Officer H.S. Bindiya, Research Officer of the Karnataka State Tribal Research Institute (KSTRI), the Cell comprises nine members (excluding the Nodal Officer) tasked with monitoring activities on various Internet-based social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Stringent monitoring rules and guidelines have been put in place to ensure compliance with electoral regulations.

The ECI has released comprehensive guidelines for political advertisements on social media platforms, requiring certification of content before dissemination to the public. Political parties and individual candidates are mandated to document expenditure on social media advertisements, which will be included in their overall election expenditure.

Additionally, social networking sites are instructed to record the expenses accrued by political parties and individual candidates on social media advertising. According to ECI guidelines, candidates should furnish details of their social media accounts/handles at the time of filing nominations.

Real-time access to updates

“Currently, we are in the preliminary stages of social media monitoring. As we progress towards the filing of nomination papers and approach closer to the election dates, our tasks will become more intensive. We will be closely monitoring posts, live interactions, advertisements and other updates on various social media platforms,” Bindiya informed Star of Mysore.

“With real-time access to updates, we will promptly track and flag any content that is deemed sensitive, divisive on communal lines or violates ethical norms. If any such violative content is posted, we will initiate suo motu cases against the respective candidates’ social media handles,” she added.

Regarding the tracking mechanism, she explained that any trending or viral post or video is promptly received on their laptops and systems in real time. “In addition,” she continued, “we will diligently monitor any complaints filed by the public or rival political parties/candidates regarding the posting of sensitive literature, images, videos or even dissemination of fake news.”

Officials noted the lack of clarity regarding whether to classify WhatsApp as social media platform, given its nature as an individual messaging mobile application. They mentioned that they would adhere to the Supreme Court’s guidelines regarding the responsibilities of group admins. Despite the challenges associated with monitoring violations on WhatsApp, officials stated that they are employing shadow observers to keep an eye on activities within the platform.

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