Digital ‘war rooms’ run by political parties to do social media campaigns for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls will be under the election commission’s scanner in Gautam Budh Nagar. The biggest challenge for the election commission (EC) this election will be to calculate poll spending on social media activities.
Three segments — Noida, Dadri and Jewar in Gautam Budh Nagar district — will go to polls on February 11 in the first phase of the assembly elections. A total of 12,52,266 voters in the district will cast their vote in the district and the results will be out on March 11.
Election commission officials have their task cut out in monitoring social media campaigns and advertising done by political parties.
Since Noida has majority of urban voters, parties conduct aggressive social media campaigns to woo them. This poses a challenge for the EC as it will have to calculate poll spending on social media activities. For example, if a person sends bulk messages in support of a candidate on WhatsApp or on Twitter, then how will the EC figure out the cost incurred?
“We have a media certification and monitoring committee to look into all kinds of promotion that a candidate or party carries out. If a person uses social media applications such as WhatsApp or Twitter, then we will calculate spending on the basis of how much the person pays for internet data,” said NP Singh, district magistrate and chief election officer.
This again raises the question of how spending will be calculated if the sender of bulk messages is availing of free internet data.
“We are brainstorming on how effectively we can deal with social media promotions, so that we can provide a level playing field to all political parties. We may form a dedicated team that will deal with social media promotions of each party,” Singh said.
As per rules, political promotions of all kinds need to be stopped 48 hours before polling day. This again will prove to be difficult when it comes to online campaigns.
“Banning social media promotions on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp 48 hours before voting is not easy because monitoring is almost impossible as there are no clear guidelines on social media handling,” said an election commission official.
Gautam Budh Nagar district election officials have written to the chief election commission to advise them on how to stop social media promotions 48 hours prior to polling.