The social media helped the BJP win power in 2014. Now BJP is trying to control this media when it is not working in their favour. The right to freedom of expression needs to prevail as we are a democratic and independent country.
Modi Government was always ahead in using social media. But now when the citizens of India becoming more aware of this media and when they are trying to express their real concerns Modi government wants to set up regulation on the same.
According to a report, the Modi government tried seven attempts to control social media in the last four years. With the help of private companies, Modi Government announced 7 different tenders. That means PM Modi-led government has attempted to snoop on the Indian public at least seven times since 2014.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP government at the centre has been quite social media savvy. Ministers and members of Parliament routinely tweet about government policies and programmes, a large base of supporters has been culled and are engaged with on a regular basis, important announcements are made and photo opportunities are given a full promotional blast.
While talking about social media and PM Modi one should also ask that Why does Indian PM Narendra Modi follow trolls on Twitter? A huge majority of the 1,845 people that Mr Modi follows are politicians, bureaucrats and journalists, but a significant number of them are people who denigrate critics and political opponents in most horrendous language,” says Pratik Sinha.
What are social media and its uses?
Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features.
Here are some of the key requirements of the platform and activities as specified in the tender’s ‘scope of work’ section:-
- It should trawl a variety of websites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and even email accounts to collect data on individuals and gauge public sentiment.
- The platform, which is expected to be deployed on a large scale across a range of devices, should help the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting assess the impact of social media campaigns and identify ways to “make a particular topic trend”.
- Social media conversations should be categorised as “positive”, “negative” or “neutral” while social media accounts should be segregated on the basis of how urgently they “require action”.
- The social media team, which is expected to work 24×7 in two shifts, will be responsible for publishing content in a number of regional languages on all platforms of the government and its ministries.
- The platform should be able to “predict” future news headlines and the public’s reaction to them.
BJP won the 2014 election with the help of the social media accurately. According to Stanford University study, The influence of social media on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was “massive”, that examined the use of Twitter ahead of the polls that brought the BJP to power after a decade of Congress rule.
The analysis of 15.5 million user accounts and 10.6 million tweets indicate that many traditional politicians lost the election because of their reluctance to change and adopt new tools of communication.
After the 2014 election, Financial Times published a report calling Narendra Modi “India’s first social media prime minister’’. With less than a year left for the general elections, Narendra Modi changes the social media term and According to the Hindu report, “between 25 April and 15 May, Twitter saw more than 3 million mentions in relation to the #KarnatakaElections2018.” While the “BJP garnered 51 per cent of the share of voice on Twitter, the Congress took 42 per cent” of mentions. Reports suggest that in Gujarat too, the BJP’s social media domination did not remain unchallenged.many oppositions claimed that Modi wants to take authority of social media.
Under the Modi government, external ministry and information and broadcasting ministry passed seven different tenders to control and authorized social media. these are as follow,
- 1st Attempt: The first attempt was in 1st December 2014, when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) floated a tender for “production of special media monitoring folders on writings of a particular journalist”.
‘social media monitoring‘ is a way of computing popularity of a brand or company by extracting information from social media channels, such as blogs, wikis, news sites, micro-blogs such as Twitter, social networking sites, video/photo sharing websites, forums, message boards and user-generated content from time to time. The process first gathers data from different websites and then performs analysis based on different metrics like time spent on the page, click through rate, content share, comments, text analytics to identify positive or negative emotions about the brand. Modi Government issued the tenders application.
- 2nd Attempt: The second attempt was on 3rd December 2015, when the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) floated a tender to ‘ Monitor Social MediaSentiments’. the government hopes to deploy a “social media analytical tool” that will create digital profiles of citizens, ostensibly to gauge their opinions about official policies, according to a bid document issued last month by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The government hopes to use this information to target individuals with personalised campaigns to promote “positive” opinions and to neutralise “negative sentiments” about government schemes.
- 3rd Attempt: Again on 5th February 2016, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued tender for a “listening tool.”
- 4th attempt: On 16th may 2016, Ministry of Information and Communication’s floated a tender for
- “drafting a plan to work out and neutralise negative sentiments.”
- 5th Attempt: 10th July 2017, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting floated another tender for ‘Monitor and Track overall trend on a various social media platform.’
- 6th attempt: This may, Government want to create Social Media communication Hub. It is the creation of a social media monitoring system which can “…collect Digital media chatter from all Core Social Media Platforms as well as digital platforms like news, blogs and forums…” It is expected to ‘listen and respond’ to social media websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.the Indian government seems to be looking at a technology which can harvest online information available on social media which can help them in pursuing their own interests. 6th attempt created a dispute between BJP and opposition party. Social media communication hub became the centre of attraction after the matter goes to the Supreme court. Supreme Court (SC) questioning the government’s move, where it stated, “it will be like creating a surveillance state.” The issue of the government trying to track social media users in the country came to light in May when a tender on the creation of a social media hub was highlighted. The I&B Ministry in its tender had stated that it wanted to create a “real time new media command room” that would monitor Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and other Internet forums to identify fake news and disseminate information with the positive slant for India.
- 7th attempt: Government launched the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India). Its a government agency in New Delhi that serves as the issuing authority for Aadhaar unique identification numbers (UIDs) and cards. The agency has been mandated by the government to develop, identify and set up the necessary infrastructure for issuing Aadhaar cards. UDAI also the very sensitive topic of the nation as he connects with the privacy of citizens. Many allegations, cases, debate happened over UDAI, but government not changing its decision. Cases like hiking social accounts, bank accounts, personal data have increased.
After the NDTV report, the foreign ministry issued a clarification about the very first tender floated on the issue. Over the last four years, the government has issued at least seven tenders – all meant to hire private firms to monitor social media users.
In its response to a questionnaire sent by NDTV, the foreign ministry said: “The tender was published in November 2014 and the same was rescinded as the social media monitoring was dropped from the scope of work. Subsequently, the separate tenders were floated for hiring agency for boosting Ministry’s social media reach and they did not have any monitoring provision. The Ministry does not monitor specific individuals.”
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which had issued three of the subsequent tenders, is yet to respond to the matter. Arun Kumar, Deputy Director of the Media and Communication division had said he would “forward your queries to the senior officials and will get back to you if they reply.”
The most important concern, however, is that of privacy. No private information of any citizen should be collected without his/her consent. It must be voluntary at all times, should not be shared with any political party, Citizens of India need to wake up to this new threat planned by the government to invade their privacy and raise their voice in protest.
The present government in India is less worried about the rights of the citizens and more about its own control over their lives.
India already had weak privacy protections in place, enabling unchecked data collection on citizens by private companies and the government. Over the past year, a number of large-scale data leaks and breaches that have impacted major Indian corporations, as well as the Aadhaar program itself, have prompted users to start asking questions about the security and uses of their personal data.
At a global level, this move comes at a time when the European countries have put into place the General Data Protection Rules, among the strongest in the world so far. These give users considerable control over their data collected by private companies. Across the world, Facebook and other firms which collect user information on a large scale are facing a backlash following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. At this point, India is clearly going against the general movement towards user sovereignty over their data. Ironically, such a system is being proposed shortly after the landmark Supreme Court decision declaring privacy a fundamental right. At the same time, it is not a surprise as the government did argue that it did not believe privacy was such a right.
In this series of tenders which are proposals points to an unashamed attempt at identifying and targeting dissenting voices, all under the banner of development and nationalism, is nothing but the textbook case of the tendency of the Modi government and the BJP to avoid any hard questions of the issues faced by the people of India.