With the widespread use of social media in every field, it has become increasingly difficult to monitor its contents. In most countries, elections are celebrated like any other festival and it becomes easier for the politicians to use social media for manipulating the public. The extensive use of social media during the election is now putting democracy in danger. Political party leaders are meddling with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Irrespective of the platform, the misuse continues discreetly as well as openly.
Firstly, we cannot ignore the role of the visual medium which forms an integral part of our lives. Nowadays, every news channel has a wide presence on social media. We often come across the term, ‘paid media’, especially during the time of elections. Of course, there is a lot of truth in that term because the biased behaviour of the media is well portrayed in the type of news they cover during elections. In the fast paced modern lifestyle, everyone is hooked onto social media for both news and entertainment. News channels are often seen joining hands with a particular politician or a political party. They engage in promoting some politicians while clearly showing the rest in a bad light. The political ‘advertising’ is used to influence the perception of the voters which often leads to communal violence. The biased reporting by news channels especially on the social media platforms is posing a serious threat to democracy.
Secondly, besides the role of news channels, the social media as a whole is dangerous because of the algorithms of various platforms. These website algorithms act as filters and a hate post reaches its target audience/viewers much faster than it does through any other media. This typical phenomenon of being surrounded solely by the posts you prefer to see is called the ‘filter bubble’. This term was first used by Eli Pariser, an internet activist. It is nothing but a distortion of reality as it takes you away from the real news and traps you within your own bubble of likes and dislikes. The politicians, political party pages/accounts, fan pages etc. cannot control the algorithm of social media but they use it to their advantage and create a resonance instead of a diverse perspective.
Thirdly, the prowling danger of fake political news cannot be ignored. The emotions of the voters are triggered through such posts mostly because people do not take up the responsibility to verify those posts. Mindless sharing continues and ultimately democracy loses its value. It has become quite difficult to detect such posts, especially around the time of elections because they get mixed up in the plethora of actual political news. Now, this phenomenon has come to a stage where fake news has gained acceptance as an inevitable part of social media. While some do not understand the danger it poses, some are least bothered, and only a handful take it upon themselves to verify and report such posts.
Lastly, while the blame game continues, it should be kept in mind that the responsibility to preserve democracy has to be borne not only by politicians and news media but also by the public. Preserving the essence of democracy and liberating it from the danger of extinction is a tough job in this age. While on one hand, freedom of speech and expression is curbed, the same freedom is misused to channelize and manipulate voters. Therefore, it is extremely important to call out and oppose those who are trampling on social media and to be well-informed, well-aware and responsible citizens.