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Social Media, AI & Misinformation: India's Democracy



  May 18, 2024

IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA, AI, AND MISINFORMATION ON INDIAN DEMOCRACY


 
How are social media platforms used in Indian election campaigns?

Social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp have become integral to Indian election campaigns. Political parties use these platforms to connect directly with voters, bypassing traditional news gatekeepers like journalists.

What role does misinformation play in these campaigns?

Misinformation, manipulated messages, malicious claims, and AI-enabled fabrications are rampant on social media. These elements are used to discredit opponents and influence voter perceptions, often with little accountability.

How extensive is the reach of these campaigns?

India has nearly 970 million eligible voters and over 750 million active internet users. Political parties utilize platforms like Instagram (362 million users), YouTube (467 million users), and WhatsApp (535 million users) to reach and engage this vast audience.

What is the impact of AI-generated content on elections?

AI-generated memes, deepfake videos, and other synthetic media are increasingly used to create fake news and manipulate public opinion. These tools can revive deceased leaders, simulate personal interactions, and create misleading video clips.

How are WhatsApp groups used in political campaigns?

WhatsApp groups, managed extensively by parties like the BJP, are used to disseminate campaign messages. The BJP manages over five million groups, leveraging them to spread personalized messages and government achievements.

What challenges does the Election Commission of India face?

The Election Commission struggles to enforce guidelines on the use of AI and social media in campaigns. The vast scale of online activity and the use of shadow accounts make it difficult to regulate misinformation and hate speech.

What is the role of fact-checking in combating misinformation?

Despite efforts by Meta, Google, and various news organizations to fund and establish fact-checking units, the sheer volume of misinformation often overwhelms these initiatives. Hardened political views further complicate the effectiveness of fact-checking.

How much is spent on digital media for political advertising?

It is estimated that around 60% of the Rs 3000–4000 crore (US$359–479 million) spent on advertising during the 2024 national and state elections will go to digital media. This significant expenditure highlights the importance of digital platforms in modern campaigning.

What is the role of mainstream media in the election process?

Mainstream media and journalists have been criticized for passively reporting on political speeches and campaigns without questioning leaders or their claims. This lack of scrutiny allows misinformation to spread unchecked.

What steps are needed to address these challenges?

A concerted effort is needed from social media platforms, political parties, fact-checkers, and voters to counter the spread of misinformation. Better regulation, increased transparency, and public awareness are crucial to safeguarding democratic processes.



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