The campaign for National Council elections has commenced. While the mainstream media is fighting for space and freedom, politicians, supposedly apolitical, have taken social media as the most convenient platform to reach out to their voters. A social media campaign is practically obligatory for candidates today, and the key to social media is that it’s interactive; it’s not one-way like traditional political advertising.
With the NC campaign in full swing, you may see more political-minded post tend to gather at the top of your news feed. You log on to your Facebook account and your wall is flooded with political posts. It feels like we are accidently walking in to a political rally, of course depending on whether our friends are contesting this election or not. National Council election is not party-based. So it is not which ideology you agree to, but to which post you press like button, because your friend or your friend’s friend has posted about his political campaign.
Most of the 130 candidates, contesting in the election, may not have an ideology on which they are contesting.So it is all about ‘like’ ‘share’ ‘comment’ on the post that the candidate posts. This election campaign looks like a rally organized around people that will ‘like or comment’ on the post because that candidate whose post you didn’t like or comment may not actually show up on your wall. Facebook is based onalgorithm, and it shows you what you want. So you don’t see opposing views or the post of other candidates who are not on your friend list or who are not your friend’s friends.
A new study out of the University of Delaware shows that Facebook comments affect opinions about political candidates. When Facebook users see positive comments about a political candidate, they feel positively about them. And negative comments make them feel negatively about them. Whether or not the candidate themselves comments in the thread didn’t have an effect, which suggests that the opinions of peers matters more to social media users than messages coming directly from a political candidate. Bhutan’s social media policy too terms Facebook as “primarily a tool for staying connected, (rather) than self promotion”.
However, it is wise that yourefrain fromliking, commenting, or sharing any of the post that is of political nature. When you do, you become party to the post. When you like a post, it means that you endorse it, in this case the candidate. The post you like or comment would receive multiple likes and comments, negative and positive. The post could appear online on the ‘black-out-period’ that could put you in trouble.
Social media hasn’t been around very long relative to the history of human communication, and there aren’t any cut-and-dried solutions for helping people use it in positive, productive ways. We must remember that social media is a tool, and like most tools, it is not all good or bad, by nature. Instead, it can be used in different ways and for different purposes, and some of its uses are simply a better fit.
Social media is best at helping us express ourselves and relate to other people. But when it comes to critical conversations or political discussions, we need to consider whether social media is actually the best tool for the job, or whether the conversation would be more appropriate somewhere else.
A user of social media, in Bhutan, shall subscribe to the Election Code of Conduct in the Election Act which are further spelt out in the Media Coverage of Elections Rules and the Election Advertising Rules and abide by the Fundamental Principles thereof in the interest of providing a truthful, comprehensive, accurate, balanced ensuring fair account of events and fair play on a level playing field.
ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2015 says: “No individual shall communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or Political Party.
“Any communication or material sent or forwarded or relayed by a civil servant, a Religious Personality, a member of Royal Family or armed forces in support or opposition of a Political Party or a Candidate shall be treated as political advertising and in direct violation of the Electoral Laws, if so alleged and proven.”
During the black out period“No one shall publish, broadcast, or transmit any item that is of the nature of election campaign supporting or opposing any Political Party or Candidate.” The restriction isapplied on Internet advertising too.
If you rely on Facebook for political information, keep this in mind. Facebook could consistexaggerations, distortions, or out of context rumours, and outright lies. There is very less chance that what you see on Facebook is accurate information about a candidate. Anybody can write anything, and it may appear convincing, but be smart and do your own serious open-minded research. And:
- Be a good citizen. Respect the Constitution, all thelaws, and other people’s rights
- Be responsible. Always act in a constructive manner and exercise good judgment while liking, sharing or commenting on political posts
- Be transparent. Be open about who you are
- Be accurate. Ensure that what you post, like, or comment, is true
- Be considerate. Never post malicious, indecent, vulgar, obscene, misleading or unfair content about the candidate, friends, or their competitors
- Be careful. Do not disclose sensitive private information about the candidates
- Be appropriate. Use social media in a manner that is consistent with election laws, social media policy, legal requirements, and related policies.
So, my counsel is don’t ignore the election. For the next few days it will be the news around the 130 NC candidates that would flood your Facebook news feed. You need to be aware and informed, even if you are not a political junky, on whom to vote.
However, be respectful of all the candidates and their ideologies. Use judgment. Be observant of the people not chiming in on the online conversation.
Treat online commentary the same as you would in-person conversations. And, remember, you never, ever, ever know who is listening with their eyes, there are media arbitrators and social media watchdog that are watching on us, all round the clock. Your one like, comment, or share could land you in trouble.
At the end of the day it always comes back to who do you “know, like, and trust.” We don’t all have to agree to all, but we need to be respectful of differing opinions, as we all have to interact and work together, after the elections.
Now, go find your voter card. Keep it safe. Ensure it is the latest. Check your polling booth. Keep your citizenship identity card ready. Go out and vote early on the polling day, and vote often.