Meddling in elections has become a major headache for law enforcement authorities in today’s hyperconnected world. Ad campaigns have been used by all kinds of agencies to target voters and influence mass opinion.
Google, the leader in online advertising, recently introduced a new policy in the US which sought to boost transparency when it comes to political ads, and now, the company is trying to generate a similar effect in India.
Google is in talks with the Election Commission of India over a project that would monitor political campaigns in the lead-up to the 2019 General Elections, and will involve a mandatory pre-certification process for all political ads whose details will be shared with the autonomous election administration body.
Chief Election Commissioner, O P Rawat, has disclosed that a Google representative recently held discussions with a committee tasked with exploring the possibilities of making certain modifications in Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act (1951) and a few other provisions, which regulate the process of political advertising.
“As soon as someone is declared a candidate for any election, all the money spent by the person for campaigning gets added as election expenditure. The Commission also asks the candidates to declare their official social media accounts”, an EC official was quoted as saying by TheHindu.
The Google representative told the committee that the company will ensure that all political ads are pre-certified by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee, the EC division which oversees the registration and certification of all ads which are political in nature. As per the initiative, Google will ask clients to make sure that their political ads have been pre-certified by the EC before they go live.
Moreover, Google will also create a monitoring tool that will track the political ads and estimate the financial value of running the political campaign on its platform. The financial details of an online campaign will then be shared with EC to assist the Returning Officers estimate the gross expenditure of an election campaign, helping them spot suspicious funding sources, disproportionate asset declaration or any other discrepancy.