How political parties are fighting troll-wars on social media in Punjab

Election war rooms have turned into battlegrounds to troll rivals on the digital space in the poll-bound state.

 |  2-minute read |   30-01-2017
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The election war rooms set up by political parties in Punjab have become a battleground to troll rivals on social media.

The contesting outfits are using a number of methods including purchased Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, digital campaigns, derogatory cartoons, videos and statements against rivals to establish that they are the most trusted and followed party in the digital space.

Punjab has more than 13.46 million internet users, out of which 4.71 million live in rural areas and 8.75 million in urban.

cartbd1_013017084107.jpg The election war rooms set up by political parties in Punjab have become a battleground to troll rivals on social media.

With the introduction of 3G and 4G networks in the state, the number of internet users has grown manifold compared to the 2012 Assembly elections.

"Social media is free and gives an opportunity to people to have their say. There are more than 30 lakh internet users who fall in the age group of 18-35 years," says Paroma Bhat, who heads Indian Political Action Committee.

The Facebook page of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), apart from putting up videos of Bhagwant Mann, has shared a clipping showing Arvind Kejriwal meting out third-degree torture to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Similarly, the Congress page also carries cartoons targeting either the Badals or Arvind Kejriwal. The party has also unofficially released a video showing Captain Amarinder Singh beating up Badals and Kejriwal - with a Bollywood song playing in the background.

Sources say techies in the election war room have unofficially circulated the videos and jingles over platforms like WhatsApp. There are more than a dozen of these animated videos on social media.

cartbd_013017084118.jpg Techies in the election war room have unofficially circulated the videos and jingles over platforms like WhatsApp.

They have been employed by the parties to not only post content on the websites, but also comment on each post to ensure the page, tweet or post remains popular among users. At times they even post the same comments with typos and grammatical errors.

AAP's Punjab social media war room head Akashnoor Gadri says her party ignores such comments or content which rivals use to target them.

The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders say they were forced to monitor and manage social media platforms after attracting trolls. The party has a dedicated cell in its war room that regularly deletes objectionable cartoons and videos posted on its official Facebook page.

"There are planted stories on social media which we regularly monitor and delete," says Akali Dal spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa.

Evidently, the social media smear hoodwinks the Election Commission. The parties which spend generously on social media and digital campaigns have refused to divulge details about such expenditure following the EC capping.

Also read: Why Punjab's 2017 vote might be a referendum on Akali Dal

Writer

Manjeet Sehgal Manjeet Sehgal @manjeet_sehgal

Deputy Editor, India Today TV

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