Day 29 – Q 3.In the light of rapidly changing socio-economic dynamics brought in by the internet and social media, examine the challenges faced by the Election Commission as the watchdog of democracy in India.
3. In the light of rapidly changing socio-economic dynamics brought in by the internet and social media, examine the challenges faced by the Election Commission as the watchdog of democracy in India.
इंटरनेट और सोशल मीडिया द्वारा तेजी से बदलते सामाजिक–आर्थिक गतिशीलता के प्रकाश में, भारत में लोकतंत्र के प्रहरी के रूप में चुनाव आयोग के सामने आने वाली चुनौतियों की जांच करें।
Election Commission (EC) acts as the watchdog of democracy in India and has reservoir of power under article 324 of the Indian constitution, as per the Supreme Court.
The need to address a large number of voters across spatial and social divides in a first-past-the-post system necessitates the deployment of new communication technologies for a more efficacious political campaign.
However, changing socio-economic dynamics brought in by the internet and social media have posed many challenges for EC.
Rapidly changing socio-economic dynamics brought in by the internet and social media
- Suspension of norms of civility
- Use of bots and unfair means to trend on social media
- Phenomenon of fake news and misinformation
- Institutionalization of the democratic structure
- Othering/marginalization of some sections
- Dilution of public reasoning
- Allegations of hacking of EVMs
Challenges faced by the Election Commission
- Suspension of norms of civility – and responsibility owing to the anonymous nature of the engagement on internet and social media. Free and fair election is important not only for expression of the will of people but also to maintain social cohesion and democratic values of equality, fraternity etc. Enforcing Model Code of Conduct in such a scenario becomes extremely difficult.
- Use of bots and unfair means to trend on social media – The immediacy of the engagement, with deep penetration through the device of posts going viral, sometimes, allegedly, owing to the deployment of bots, creates challenge in conducting free and fair election.
- Phenomenon of fake news and misinformation – an important aspect of the role that social media are likely to play in the elections is the phenomenon of fake news and misinformation. The social rupture caused by such campaigns, including heightened insecurity for marginalised sections of society, is phenomenal.
- De-Institutionalization of the democratic structure – A relatively small financial cost lends the ability to a small number of users to bombard the electorate with party political messages with little political accountability or responsibility. The net impact is in geometric proportion to the number of such platforms deployed. The result is the de-institutionalization of the democratic structure and a strengthening of what Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Rudolph call a command polity.
- Othering/marginalization of some sections – This is the space where othering takes place with impunity and with only a miniscule risk of social censure. Absolved of the responsibility to defend their views in an open arena of co-equal citizens, regressive actors are able to campaign for their political viewpoints from the safety of a smartphone.
- Dilution of public reasoning – the fulcrum of public reasoning is shifting to the construction of the other. It therefore becomes less important for political actors to propose their own programme of action and more important for them to contest characterizations by others.
- Allegations of hacking of EVMs – When it’s difficult to verify news and counter fake news, allegations like hacking of EVMs may gain traction. This will completely shake he credibility of EC and erode trust in the election process.
Some of the recent steps taken by EC
- EC conducted EVM hackathon.
- Banned prominent politician from campaigning for certain period in recent Lok sabha election.
- Banned a biopic movie.
- Banned election campaign in Kolkata due to eruption of violence.
- SVEEP – Systematic voter’s education and electoral awareness program.
- C-Vigil – to maintain the integrity of election process.
- Election commission has setup Media Certification and Monitoring Committee
Efforts to regulate social media and internet by the government have been contested and therefore its unregulated nature is most likely here to stay. The efforts at internal regulation through a voluntary code of conduct by some platforms is the need.