The Election Commission in Tamil Nadu is set to use a special software to screen the social media posts of candidates for paid content and hate speech in the run-up to the May 16 assembly polls. The EC will monitor platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs for the first time in the state.
EC is relying on a Microsoft tool and a software developed by Cybertek, a local company, for screening. “The software tracks photographs, audio-video clips and graphic posts on social media platforms to check for certain key phrases, which are then scruntinised manually to check for violations,” chief election officer Rajesh Lakhoni told HT. The offensive posts are referred to the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee, which in turn issues notices to the offenders for using hate speech or paid content.
All candidates were required to submit details of their social media accounts and the expenses for running campaigns on these platforms to the Commission. The costs are added to their election expenditure. The model code of conduct made it mandatory for parties and their candidates to have political advertisements, including those in social media, scrutinised by the EC. Over a dozen cases of violation have been filed against various political parties for canvassing on social media without EC’s permission.
According to EC officials, social media scanning is being done to lend support to the Commission’s measures for checking the rampant use of money and freebies to woo voters. The EC has deployed additional central forces, increased flying squads and is running “ethical voting” campaigns to keep tabs on spending by political parties.
With as much as Rs 24.09 crore seized by the agencies till Friday, the EC is relying on intelligence inputs to crack down on the flow of cash and giveaways from political parties. It is also banking on residents to offer tip-offs.
Apart from cash, the EC is also keeping an eye out for the distribution of liquor, drugs, clothes, appliances and food grains.