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Bihar Elections: What is virtual campaigning and security threats around it

This upcoming Bihar election is going to be a challenging one. Not only the ruling BJP-JD(U) alliance will fight hard to retain the power, but all the political parties will have to adapt to new technologies for campaigning, meeting, and promotions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how elections were fought in India. The popularity of a leader was assessed through the crowd gathered in their rallies. But with physical distancing norms in place, popularity of a neta will be determined by like, share and followers he has in the virtual world. After the announcement of elections and important dates by the Election Commission, political parties are gearing up for ‘virtual campaign’ to woo voters through new technologies.

What is Virtual Campaign: – Adhering to social distancing norms, political parties are going to hold multiple virtual meetings and rallies in the elections. All this will be done to ensure the achievements and agenda of candidates fighting the upcoming poll reaches each household. Messages on social media, messaging app and chat groups will be aggressively used during this poll. Virtual rallies are going to be a dominant feature of digital campaigning, besides social media.

However, there is no complete ban on rallies as the Election Commission has said that candidates can hold rallies with social distancing norms. To keep a check on the spread of deadly Coronavirus, the EC has reduced the number of people who can undertake door-to-door campaigning. A group of five people, including candidates, but excluding security personnel, is allowed to campaign from door to door. The restrictions on gathering will push the parties and its candidates to look for newer digital methods to reach out to their voters.

But virtual campaigning isn’t as simple as it appears. It the battle where the stakes are so high, monitoring these technologies and security concern will be a challenge for authorities.

Security Challenges during virtual campaign

–        Hundreds of fake accounts will be created on social media to propagate and circulate message of candidates and parties. Social media platforms and EC will have a huge responsibility to track such accounts.

–        Impersonation of candidates and parties. Internet gives liberty to open an account on any name but such misuse can create havoc, especially during the times of poll.  Such imposter accounts will have to be flagged and deactivated.

–        As most of the campaigning is going virtual it also increases the chances of miscreants hacking or taking over accounts or login credentials of candidates and parties.

–        As communication will be sent digitally at such a large scale, it becomes pertinent to monitor such content to check if any abuse, communal, objectionable or pornographic content is being circulated.

–        Aggressive use of messaging apps and social media also raises the fear of fake news and misinformation growing by multiple folds during the polls.

–        This opportunity can be misused by cybercriminals to script phishing mails and start fake funding campaign.

–        It will be tough to monitor hate campaigns funded by adversaries. It is likely that political rivals will hire tech companies to run hate campaigns against their opposition. These campaigns can be easily managed from different states or countries making it more difficult to track them.

 

 

 

Shashank Shekhar
Shashank Shekhar
Editor, The420.in. I am a communication enthusiast with a voracious appetite to learn, in a journalistic career spanning almost 14 years, I have worked for several leading publications and online platforms.

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