BJP, Cong fight social media abuse

BJP, Cong fight social media abuse

Many Facebook and Twitter accounts in Karnataka have been suspended as the BJP and the Congress are cracking down on abuse and hoax spread against their leaders

Scores of Facebook and Twitter accounts in Karnataka have been suspended as the BJP and the Congress are cracking down on abuse and hoax being spread against their leaders on these platforms in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Both parties, engaged in an intense poll war, have reported to the authorities several instances of their leaders being targeted. This includes the abuse Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Dinesh Gundu Rao received for his recent Facebook post criticising demonetisation, or when a message claimed that BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa wore shoes worth Rs 60,000.

“With consistent reporting, we have managed to get over 80 Facebook and Twitter accounts suspended in the past four months,” KPCC social media coordinator Kashyap Nandan said. For instance, the party found a fake Facebook account named Congress IT Cell that was later suspended.

The Congress has appointed a legal advisor in every Assembly constituency to check those abusing its top leaders on social media platforms.

“They file complaints locally, or refer them to us and we take it up with the cyber crime police,” another KPCC social media coordinator A N Nataraj Gowda said.

The BJP, which is perceived to be dominant on social media, has been sensitising its volunteers on abuse. “We see that 50% of accounts that abuse are fake,” BJP Karnataka social media cell convenor Balaji Srinivas said. “Our volunteers themselves report cases of abuse they come across. Because of our complaints, about 15-20 accounts have been blocked.”

Balaji, however, accused the cyber crime police of “neglecting” the BJP’s complaints about social media excesses. “That’s probably because we’re in the opposition.”

Cybercrime authorities, however, neither confirmed nor denied the number
of social media accounts both parties claim to have been suspended. “We can’t comment on groups or parties requesting us to monitor social media accounts.
We go by cases registered that call for action...cases that are cognisable under the IT Act,” Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Alok Kumar said.

Social media is expected to play a significant role in influencing voter behaviour, just like it did during the 2014 elections when the BJP stormed to power. “In this high-decibel election, fake news will come from all sides. The onus is on the people to fact-check and report them,” social media evangelist Tinu Cherian Abraham said.