Be April Smart: Don’t be a rumour-forwarding fool!
The State Election Commission’s digital police is watching and protecting you
April, for many, is just a fool’s month. The Election Commission of India and its state offices like the one in Goa, is all out to change this by starting the Smart April Campaign. The state Election Commission officials, icons and nodal Officers are busy monitoring social media to prevent any threats to a healthy voting day.
‘Be smart, be cool; don’t be a rumour forwarding fool!”. Is this a new ad campaign on the block? Well not quite but close to. What is being sold is not a product but electoral awareness Rumours, fake news, photo-shopped pictures to distort news and spread tension. If elections are all about these, there is somebody watching you, with every click you make, every post you fake. Propaganda is fine but if it is fake, and distorts and spreads enmity, the propagandist can no longer be an isolated IP address The Election Commission of India (ECI) has formed a communication system with state Chief Electoral Officers (CEO) through the Nodal Officers for escalating to the ECI any reported complaints of fake political news and posts. Called the Smart April Campaign, people are urged to be ‘smart’ during the voting month by avoiding forwards of fake news and being unbiased on social media. This also includes the electoral candidates themselves. The Nodal Officer for Social Media and Fake News, Goa, Praveen Volvotkar confirms that so far no complaints have been received in Goa but he still sends his message to the people on being careful of what they forward on social media. “Citizens are the pillars of democracy. They should ensure that healthy electoral practices exist in society,” he says. The officers and icons urge people to set a new trend of smartness with the month April, unlike the conventional fooling tag associated with the month. It is a month to be alert and vigilant as a Voter. If any news is received by way of social media, ignorant forwarding should be avoided. “We should cross verify and confirm the authenticity of the news first,” he adds. Sales Associate and eligible voter Jane Pereira, who heard about the Smart April campaign, shares her views from the public’s perspective: “This year, things are different and new. The Electoral Committee has taken things seriously. First it was the C-vigil app, and now the Smart April Campaign that I keep hearing of on radio. It makes us feel inspired.” She agrees that individuals don’t need to be influenced by people in order to decide whom to vote for. “We are the public and it’s our right. So the Smart April Campaign makes me happy; the icons and the CEO are doing so much, so why not help by following the guidelines.” The Smart April awareness is being promoted through various mediums and icons have been zealously working towards the same. “Radio is my medium to spread awareness as a youth election icon,” says RJ Aryan Khedekar. RJ Aryan explains, “We don’t want people falling prey to unwanted posts and forwards, especially ones that divert their minds or brainwash them. Yes, voting is important and people should vote for the candidates through their own will and not by getting influenced in any way.” Nodal Officer for SVEEP 9Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation) Deepali Naik says, “It is important to vote wisely and not under any pressure. Hence with social monitoring, we can identify questionable activities. If anyone is caught, a case can be filed under Violation of Code of Conduct. This is for the public as well as the contesting candidates.” Chief Electoral Officer Kunal states that the committee has ensured no political posters should be placed at public places and similarly, the committee has also been quite stringent with social media monitoring and fake news sharing. According to reports, Kunal also said that directions have been issued to political parties and their candidates, asking them not to use socio-religious events for any political purpose. Many people are appreciating the initiatives taken by the election icons and the Electoral Committee. “Hopefully, we will not see any corruption with the C-Vigil app and the Smart April plan. Individually, we should each try and be responsible ourselves first,” says Dorris Janarthanan, beautician, mother and concerned citizen. Similarly, Archie Fernandes says, “As a youth, I know how we tend to use social media at times. But during circumstances such as the elections, care needs to be taken. He explains that youngsters are smart and hence they should be the first ones and smart enough to know what kind of posts should be forwarded or not during elections.
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