With the rapid proliferation in the internet-enabled social media which has impacted human behaviour in an unprecedented manner, it is only natural that more and more electioneering will take place on the cyber platform. The past few years in particular have seen wide use of social media, especially platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, by various political parties. Indeed, political parties today have dedicated social media cells that do elaborate planning and execution to reach out to the voters with their propaganda. The young generation voters in particular are the most preferred target group, given their preoccupation with social media. The Assam Assembly polls scheduled to start in three phases in less than a week's time has already seen widespread social media campaigning by the major political parties. The ruling BJP in particular has been ahead of their rivals in social media campaign. While the importance of social media for socio-political discourses will only increase in the days ahead with the proliferation of the internet, this virtual platform does have its share of pitfalls. It is often seen that discourses, especially those pertaining to politics, lose decency and end up degenerating into vitriolic, personal outbursts against opponents, distracting from core issues. Hate-mongering through circulation of hate speeches, misinformation, distorted and fake news, etc., too have become commonplace despite their being well-laid-down norms by the social media platform operators. Election times are particularly vulnerable to these aberrations, as political party functionaries and their supporters discard all sense of reason and stoop to an abyss to further their political interests. All this, sadly, effectively negates the worth of social media as a tool of reasoned discourse and educating the masses through dissemination of correct information.
In view of the degeneration of the political discourse in social media, Facebook has teamed up with fact checkers to carry out fact-checking exercises of any content uploaded on Facebook in the Assamese language. This is being done for the first time for the Assamese language and if effectively executed, would go a long way in checking the undesirable manifestations of political campaign and discourses. Facebook happens to be the most popular social platform that has been widely used by the people of Assam even in the remote areas of the State. Under the arrangements, to curb spread of misinformation and other unhealthy trends on Facebook, there is a three-tier framework that will remove the content that violates its community standard norms. It is also a good step that content which does not quite violate the norms but may be viewed as offensive would also be restricted and sent for fact-checking. With the EC-mandated model code of conduct for polls in place, social media platforms will have to be very careful and vigilant to stop every bit of repulsive content that is bound to flood social media ahead of the election.