Yes! Social media can affect election because there are more people informed via the internet or we can say by social media than newspapers or tv. Because of the cheap availability of smartphone and data rate, more people are connecting to the internet. Over the past few years, the internet reached over 500 million people in India. Now it has a bigger impact on day to day life.

Social media can really affect the election. An incident like this has happened in the past, where social media giant like Facebook affected the US election. We all are aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal where they got all the personal data from Facebook and then they figured out how to use this data to manipulate people and this gave the power in wrong hands. People say this is just like advertising where they try to get you into buying something but this is ten levels above that. With the help of Facebook, people’s emotions can be manipulated to do something which they have no way of knowing. In a technical term, they called it ‘electronic brainwash’.

After this incident, Facebook is taking a big step to change this, in one of the interviews, Mark Zuckerberg said: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, if we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”

Now coming to a second potential threat that is fake news and articles. Recently Facebook released a statement that fake news received more shares, rection, and comment than legitimate ones. Whatapp is another threat for spreading fake news. This week Whatsapp completed its tenth-anniversary. Over the past decade, Whatsapp became the major communication platform. People use this platform to share memes, news, and videos without any second thoughts. People blindly trust whatever is shared with them because it is shared by their friend, colleague or family member.

This can really affect the election if the content is political agenda.

Think of it like this way, if only a fraction of people are shown the fake news and even if an even smaller fraction read the news, and if some of those people were influenced by them, then because the election was so close it could have changed the voting choice of enough people to affect the results. All this is hypothetical, but it has got real potential. Whatsapp is still struggling to control fake news in India and we’ll see if it will ever be able to curb it, to an extent that it is no longer a threat.

The third vulnerability is from the search engine giant Google. We are all aware of Google and its algorithm can influence our choices. Search engines can easily influence voters in a similar way. Now just imagine you are a voter, an election is close, hundreds of thousands of voters are undecided like you, therefore, the first thing you do is google the candidate you want to vote and Google shows us dozens of results, articles, blogs, and facts about the candidate. To help you make an objective and informed decision, according to a recent study, the order of negative and positive results when searching for a candidate can greatly influence how we vote. This search can be easily manipulated by search engine optimizers. The candidate appearing for the election sometimes clean their online profile to seem better than others.

Another possibility is deepfakes. For those who don’t know what is deepfake, it’s a term for AI generated fake videos of a person doing or saying things they never actually said or did.

The deepfake video of Obama.

Using this technology anyone can create any politician fake video addressing to the people. This technology got the real potential to influence people and change their belief on a large scale. There is a new technology in development to tackle this issue, you can read more about this here (A.I. to detect deepfakes).

Now, these are the serious issues that might affect the election 2019. Facebook and Google are already taking their responsibility, here are some of the steps Facebook took over the past few months.

1. To curb fake news Facebook announced to expand its third-party fact-checking programme in India

Facebook adds 5 partners to help tackle fake news, names like India Today Group, Factly, Fact Crescendo to the roster, Vishvas who are certified for fact-checking Networks. Facebook said in a statement that this will be done for content in languages including English, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, and Marathi.

2. Facebook developed AI to tackle the fake news

To curb fake news facebook developed artificial intelligence which basically takes a primary decision on accepting or rejecting news and articles on the basics of political propaganda and misinformation. This particular AI is used in natural language processing to extract information from the news. But earlier it was found that the accuracy of AI was not up to the mark. Facebook is still struggling to detect fake news.

3. Facebook deployed task force for an upcoming election to check hate speech.

4. Facebook defines new rules for political ads in India

Facebook has announced it will confirm the identity and location of Indian advertisers wanting to run political ads on the platform ahead of the 2019  elections. “By authorizing advertisers…we can better defend against foreign interference in India’s elections,” Facebook said. It added it will show a disclaimer on all political ads with advertisers’ Facebook has said that political advertisements in India will carry “Published by” or “Paid for by” disclaimers.

5. Google will need ‘pre-certificate’ to run political ads

In its statement, Google said to bring transparency in the platform, they aim to “openness to election advertising online and enabling voters to get the election-related information they need”. Political parties need  ”pre-certificate” issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) or anyone authorized by the ECI to run ads on Google platform.

Social media force us to rethink how the internet can impact our democracies. Now your part as a reader of TechBattle, don’t make a rational decision based on what you see on the internet, always check the fact with an expert. If you find any video which is spreading fake news or hate speech then spare some time to register report on the post. Make aware of the thing to other people too, it really helps.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below and tell me what you think about India’s election 2019!


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