Social media giants’ hands full as GHMC polls get underway

Multiple accounts have started criticising and praising various parties and their activities with obvious political goals

Social media giants will have their hands full as the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections will get underway in over a fortnight. While Twitter has a no-political ads policy since November 2019, Facebook has a policy which requires transparency. Bonthu Sridevi, the wife of Bonthu Rammohan Rao, who nursed hopes of becoming a corporator and perhaps the mayor (Rani Kumudini Devi began the tradition in 1962) has been promoting her account on Twitter. But on Thursday, the Ads Transparency Centre had a message for Bonthu Sridevi’s account: “This tweet is not available because it includes content that violated Twitter Ads Policies.”

During the US elections, Facebook put up a one-week ad restriction period to limit spread of fake news and propaganda. “Facebook will not allow any new ads about social issues, elections or politics in the final week of the campaign…but in the final few days, there may not be enough time to counter new claims,” was the reasoning given by the social media giant.

A similar policing policy is unlikely in Hyderabad though the stakes are high for citizens. Days to go for the polling date, multiple accounts have started criticising and praising various parties and their activities with obvious political goals. On Wednesday, a letter purportedly written by a BJP leader to the Election Commission demanding stoppage to disbursal of flood-relief money began circulating online. Within no time another message became viral proving that the letter was a fake. This circulation of unverified or unverifiable messages in closed groups will prove to be a challenge in the short time before the polling day.

But the lure of online campaign would be immeasurable in a cityscape blighted by the fear of COVID-19 and recent floods. Many candidates and aspirants for party tickets from the 150 wards have started buying up ad space to push their case. One BJP candidate from Vanasthalipuram is promising ‘Progress is possible only with change’.

“Offline campaigning is slightly difficult for political parties. I’ll promote candidate profiles and activities through social media. This is effective in the sense as almost everyone has smartphone right? I’ll target on age basis when they are scrolling social media accounts the candidate profile will be shown as a sponsored ad,” says Sandeep Sandagalla, a digital marketeer.

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