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ET EDIT -Vigilance is Best Bet for Social Media

March 15, 2019 07:34 AM


Vigilance is Best Bet for Social Media
The Election Commission’s reported directive to all candidates of political parties to disclose their social media accounts and include all spending on their respective social media campaigns as part of official disclosure is healthy in spirit but weak in the flesh. It only captures the candidate’s own advertising, not spots boosting the candidate paid for by others. The need is to ensure transparency on who spends money to influence voting. But this is easier said than done, not just for the country’s Election Commission but also for national authorities around the world trying to protect the integrity of their electoral processes.

Reportedly, dedicated grievance officers appointed by companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter will be mandated to take prompt action against fake news and hate speech circulating on their platform. This is fine, but building expectations too high would be naïve. In most countries, campaign finance legislation predates today’s campaign methods. Hence the Scottish mandate to stamp an imprint of the campaigners’ identity on campaign material. Britain’s cap on online expenditure by political parties is neither here nor there. In the US, Federal Election Commission regulations require political committees, which register with it and disclose their donors and spending, to include disclaimers when they pay for digital communications. A bipartisan proposal, The Honest Ads Act, to plug the loophole that allows internet ads to avoid regulation and requires internet platforms to maintain a public file of all political ads they run and who paid for them has remained on paper.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Educating social media users about the validity of this price that does not find mention on any sticker alongside a QR code is the challenge.


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