By Prarthana Mitra
Google will provide the Election Commission of India the reinforcement it needs this polling season, to monitor and track political ads as the elections draw nearer. The battleground for rigorous political campaigns, world’s leading search engine and its social media offshoots will make sure all politically motivated ads have the proper certification, issued by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committees.
Licence and cost of campaign, a checkpoint
Alphabet-owned Google will develop a mechanism which verifies pre-certification and expenditure details for political ads, regardless of individual or organisational endorsements.
This means, before an ad is placed on Google, an automatic request will be generated, asking for the authorised certification. The cost of political campaigning is a contentious issue across the world as it becomes difficult to prove misuse of party funds without a record maintaining these costs. Google will share cost reports with the authorities, which would help Returning Officers when it comes to calculating the election expenditure of individual candidates.
Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat on Tuesday announced that a meeting between the ECI and Google explored possible amendments to Section 126 (election silence). Other talking points included the provisions of the Representation of the People Act (1951) to diversify and expand media platforms to include digital journalism.
On mitigating social media warfare
The Commission has reportedly also asked the candidates to declare their official social media accounts, an Election Commission official was reported as saying by The Hindu. This has several implications as social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, has turned into a lawless wrestling ring for politicians to conduct trials and levy charges on each other. Facebook is already developing tools to remove election-related content from its platform during the 48-hour ‘prohibition protocol’ period. Like Google, they will also share details of expenditure on poll-related advertisements with the relevant authorities.
According to previous meetings between the ECI and Facebook, the social media giant has promised to tackle fake news that could sway elections, repeating their effort which bore fruit during the Karnataka Assembly polls. Facebook had tied up with the Indian fact-checking agency Boom Live this summer, to confirm over 50 cases of doctored reports aimed at manipulating voters and influencing the outcome.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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