2018 political elections of Pakistan are round the corner. All the political parties have been decorating their stalls to sell manifestoes and will strive to gain the majority to form a government. On the harbor of social media, every affair becomes an anchor to sail on it. Forthwith, in the wake of revolutionary variations in main-stream as well as social media; it is really necessary to marginalize their working. In the presence of code conduct for political campaigns, quality (on air time) couldn’t be underneath in the immense density of quantity(cost).
It is on earth that whoever controls the media controls the mind. To some extent, it is factual, because, visuals have more impact on the viewer than jingles. Viewer stops the channel surfing whenever find eye-catching. Similarly, social media plays pivotal role shaping the perception. Trending from political issues like #NABcases, #election2018, #watercrisis to #fifaworldcup, etc on social media depicts the awareness of user. The blend of human touch(journalist) and IT have not left any stone unturned in unearthing the rampant corruption in politics and society. Lately, drilling of social media for political campaigns has been become substantial since 2013 election in Pakistan.
Since, we are living in this political-social life. We just don’t create political or social friction, perhaps we seem to unveil it.
Election 2013, in Pakistan, social media had brought a sparking influence in terms to criticize or support every political party and its narratives. Political parties specifically Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) proliferated the social media to seize the youth attention since 2006. They introduced the significance of Social Media for political campaigns by installing a dedicated social media desk. Approximately, less than 100 volunteers are working throughout the globe. The need of social media desk was evident because PTI’s small or big event weren’t received proper coverage as compared to other poltical parties e.g. Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) or Pakistan People Party(PPP). One of the PTI volunteers was sharing her views that we decided to adopt other ways to address the masses and social media was one of them.
Lately, PML-N, following the PTI’s approach, launched their own social media desk. In which, they not only use social media but also use the SMS service to propagade their agendas. This scheme would deviate a common man’s consideration. Whoever holding a mobile phone, would get their political vision and help them to increase their vote bank.
Why social media campaign has become substantial?
AlphaPro is Pakistan’s Digital & Social Media Agency has reported in June, 2018 that 44.6 million out of 198.9 million are internet users in Pakistan. Only 22% of population has access to internet which means active social media users’ figures is up to 35 million users.
The 35 million users belong to middle class of the society which is reluctant to cast their vote. All political parties intend to fascinate this class to participate in upcoming elections to create difference just like in 2013’s election.
In 2013 elections, the voter’s turnover was 55.07% highest since 80s. The credit is given to social media who modified the view of major part of population and divulged them to use their democratic right. PTI considered as a pioneer, who not only invoked political debates on social media but also called out people on election day.
Social media doesn’t bring 360 degree change only in Pakistan. It’s influence in the 2016 US Presidential elections was phenomenal. The two presidential candidates i.e. Hillary Clinton and Donald trump had demonstrated the world the exact power of social media through Twitter. Both of them electrified their campaigns through tweets and their supporters kept indulging in decent discussions (sometimes not) to support their respective candidate(s). More than 1 billion tweets related to US Presidential campaign were sent only in August 2016, according to a report. This envisages the power of social media to formulate a perception in common people against or pro, whatsoever.
Code of Conduct & Media: No doubt, the stimulus of social media along with print & electronic media has been increasing day by day. On contrary, the influence is fused with good or bad, whatsoever. The access to information has become certainly, however, the misused still exists.
In April 2018, Facebook data theft scandal unearthed when more than 50 million Facebook’s accounts were compromised to manipulate polls including the 2016 U.S elections. It could be anticipated that upcoming elections in Pakistan would also be affected because of theft. All major political parties have visualized fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to propagate their narratives.
In order to regulate political parties for social media, Election commission of Pakistan (ECP) should collaborate with Ministry of Information & Technology (IT).
Digital critics underscores the performance of Ministry of IT which fails to protect users’ data. It should protect under Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016. However, its greatest failure to follow the said act, so far. The proliferation of phony accounts on social media could affect, indirectly, the vote bank of any political party. It articulates that Facebook should ensure security of its users’ date in future. This can only be done through strict privacy policies and help to maintain transparency for balloting.
Nor only social media, main-stream media has also been consuming for political advertising. The political paid-content advertisements were banned in Pakistan but PPP government unbanned for its benefits.
The paid content ads are different than commercial ads. There is no accountability for ethics and cost on political ads, till date. All major parties except PTI, has used this medium to criticize the other’s poltical party agenda instead to propagate their manifestos for future. This pay & grab on-air time strategy is only valuable for those who investing in it.
However, the small parties or independent candidates which could not generate hefty funding or running social media cells are neglected, obviously.
ECP & PEMRA: In 2018, a candidate for provincial assembly seat is permitted to spend up to two million rupees and four million rupees for National Assembly seat. This amount is intangible. Political advertisements comprise through conventional means i.e. stickers, rallies, vehicles display etc. and non-conventional means i.e. social media cells, buy on- air time on TV and radio. None of these can flawlessly be monitored by ECP for the thousands candidates and the hundreds constituencies.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity Authority (PEMRA) should manage its absurd policy on political ads. The cost and on air-time for political ads neither in news-paper nor on TV or radio ever defined and disclosed.
Millions spent on and more to induce for publicity by major parties unlike small parties or independent candidates. PEMRA should ensure all media channels to give equal on air-time to all candidates, on standard rate.
Also, ECP & PEMRA could share the sensitivity of situation and implement what is tangible. ECP provides election rules & regulations to control the expenses on political campaigns. But, both authorities could devise strategies for political campaigns to ensure expense control through trial or penalty.
Conclusion: In a nut shell, it could predict that balloting could be affected not only through aforementioned theft but also for price tags using on main-stream or social media. Due to lack of enactment on code of conduct has made evident that quality could suffer and which is seen is sold, anyway.