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News18 » Tech
2-min read

Huge Spike in Political Content on Social Media Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections, Says ShareChat

According to Berges Malu, head of public policy at ShareChat, there has been a definite rise in political content in leading up to the elections, but its impact remains to be seen.

Shouvik Das | News18.com

Updated:April 12, 2019, 8:53 AM IST
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Huge Spike in Political Content on Social Media Ahead of Lok Sabha Elections, Says ShareChat
According to Berges Malu, head of public policy at ShareChat, there has been a definite rise in political content in leading up to the elections, but its impact remains to be seen.
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The voting for the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 is underway, but the lead-up to what is being billed as the most hard-fought elections in India in years has hardly been smooth for social media companies. Companies including Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) and Twitter have had to implement multiple changes on their platforms to keep the content being shared on it, in check. Social media has remained rife with political content, views, opinions and debates at large. Often, the information you see on these platforms isn't true. Berges Malu, head of public policy at ShareChat, echoes the present state, and affirms that there has been a clear spike of political content on the platform, in the long run-up to the elections. ShareChat is a homegrown, vernacular social media platform has seen a considerable amount of interest and traction in terms of political activity, although he remains doubtful about the seriousness of how it eventually impacts users.

When asked about the trajectory and spike of political content on ShareChat, Malu said, “There has been a clear spike in political content on our platform. With the election coming up, and with the political parties having their accounts on ShareChat to put out their views, the engagement for such political content is incredibly high. But, does it influence people's votes? Personally, I don't think people cast their votes based on what they see on social media. The Indian electorate is much smarter than that."

Malu’s views suggest that ShareChat, and in turn social media in general, is a part of the foundation that leads to on-ground political discourse in India. While it does present an easy way for politicians, parties and the common people to interact with each other, the general impact of online interactions and posts may not be as profound as what many estimate it to be. While not trivialising anything, it does give us perspective as to the kind of action that the majority of India’s common people, led in growth in the number of internet users in tier two and three cities on India, are taking on social media.

Malu further added, “Sudhanshu Mittal (BJP leader and VP, Indian Olympics association) posted a joke recently, and it got half a million views, over 3,000 likes and 2,000 WhatsApp shares. So, people love political content, and it is the festival of democracy in India. People are actively engaging in this content.” The world of internet, including giants such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have been actively re-evaluating their responsibility and policy of actions to be taken in a bid to curtail propaganda, which they have often been accused of not stopping, despite having knowledge. As per Malu, however, this may not quite have as profound an impact as estimates, and most people cast their votes based on their own experiences and long-established judgements and philosophies.

ShareChat has complied with the voluntary code of ethics laid down by the Election Commission of India, and further partners with a third party fact checking agency in India, and will also take down content, if the EC reports it and finds it objectionable, reveals Malu. However, he neither denied and nor accepted the question of whether there has been a spike in the frequency of fake news and dubious content, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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