WhatsApp University: How It Influence Neutral & First-time Voters?

Social media has had a significant impact on politics in recent years. This alternative media playing key role in the time of elections in India, as it has in many other parts of the world
WhatsApp University: How It Influence Neutral & First-time Voters?

Social media has had a significant impact on politics in recent years. This alternative media playing key role in the time of elections in India, as it has in many other parts of the world. It has provided a platform for political campaigns to reach a large audience quickly and at a relatively low cost. Social media has also allowed for greater engagement between politicians and voters, and has enabled the rapid spread of news, information and political narratives. 

In the last few decades, social media has transformed the very nature of elections and campaigns, offering a place for news, discourse and election information. As a result, social media now holds significant potential to influence the results of elections, regardless of their size or scope.

Politicos Find Innovative Ways for Voter-Connect:

These days, political campaigns are not just confined to posters, hand-outs, banners and Flexis. Social Media campaigns are full of info-commercials, advertisements, blog posts, and lakhs of tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook posts. Politicians are now able to convey their message through endless info-commercials and gauge their communication by viewing direct responses to their actions on social platforms. Social media has been used to engage with voters, especially younger demographics. Parties and candidates create content and engage in discussions to connect with potential voters, mobilize supporters, and encourage them to participate in the electoral process.

Social media messages have a greater influence on youths; the report said adding that more than 50 per cent voters influenced by social media are less than 25 years of age. As per the survey report, around 40 per cent of youths (18-24 years) kept themselves updated about the political developments through at least one of the five social media platforms - YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and ShareChat.

Digital Strategies Will Play Key Role in Influencing Voters:

Digital strategies have become increasingly important in the planning of political rallies and party manifestos in recent years. Social media helps the political parties in influencing the opinion of undecided voters, in giving the apathetic middle class a reason to go and vote. With candidates diverting so many resources to social media campaigns, understanding how social media influences elections and what voters can do to navigate the web wisely is crucial.

Political parties and candidates have harnessed the power of viral campaigns on social media. Catchy slogans, videos, and memes can quickly go viral, increasing visibility and engagement. These campaigns can create a buzz and influence public perception. Social media platforms offer sophisticated targeting options for political advertising. Parties and candidates can reach specific demographics and even individuals with tailored messages and advertisements, increasing their chances of winning over undecided voters.

Dangers of Spreading Fake News & Misinformation:

A major concern in elections is the spread of disinformation and fake news on social media platforms. False narratives, rumors, and misleading information can be rapidly disseminated, which can influence voter opinion and polarize political discourse. You-Tube, WhatsApp and other platforms are greatly utilized to blame and criticize the opposition parties. During elections, the spread of fake news influences the people's preferences.

In the current situation, there is no control over the mainstream media news flow itself. During elections, all media organizations earn crores illegally through paid articles. But Election Commission does not take any action. It is not in their hands to control social media anymore. Even the police will not take action on social media posts unless they receive any specific complaints.

How is Media regulated during Elections?:

  • The Election Commission does not regulate media. It has however, the responsibility to enforce the provisions of law or Court directions, which might have linkages with media or certain aspects of media functioning. These laws are mentioned below:

  • Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951: It prohibits displaying any election matter by mean of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll.

  • Section 126A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951: It prohibits conduct of exit poll and dissemination of their results during the period mentioned therein, i.e., the hour fixed for commencement of polls in the first phase and half hour after the time fixed for close of poll for the last phase in all the States and Union Territories.

  • Section 127A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951: The printing and publication of election pamphlets, posters, etc. is governed by its provisions, which make it mandatory to bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer and the publisher.

  • Section 171H of the Indian Penal Code: It prohibits incurring of expenditure on, inter alia, advertisement without the authority of the contesting candidate.

  • It also helps in garnering the support base to vote in large numbers and influencing others to vote.

Media Certification & Monitoring Committee in India:

  • ECI has developed a set of ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics’ for the General Elections prior to the Lok Sabha 2019 elections. Voluntary Code of Ethics’ has been developed to ensure free, fair and ethical use of social media platforms and to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.

  • MCMC’s three major functions are (1) Pre-certification of Political advertisements on electronic media including social media. (2) Monitoring and action on Paid News cases. (3) Monitoring media violation cases during the election process.

  • This committee clears political advertisements before being telecast on television channels and cable networks by any registered political party or by any group or organisation/association or by any contesting candidate during elections.

  • At a high-level, Media Certification and Monitoring Committee approach looks good, but in practicality, there are plenty of open statements in the approach, as we seeing every day political parties speak defamatory about opponents and sometimes issuing provocation statement with intent to incite violence.

  • The non-existence of regulating laws for social media along with non-application of Section 126 and other Sections of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1951 can result in abuse and misuse of social media.