Social networking sites now work as spaces which are accessed by people who belong to varying ideologies
By Dr Chandni Sengupta
Social media can be defined as interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. In the globalized world, social media has become an instrument for sharing of ideas which goes beyond the personal sphere and extends to the realm of politics. Social media and politics are inextricably interlinked. In fact, social media is being used as a potent tool by political parties for engaging with their supporters. There is a positive as well as a negative impact of social media as far as the politics is concerned. Social networking sites now work as spaces which are accessed by people who belong to varying ideologies and, hence, there is a danger of these sites being used or rather misused.
It was in the 2016 Presidential Elections of the United States that social media was used vigorously as a propaganda mechanism. The 2019 Indian Elections can also be taken as a case study for analyzing the role of social media on politics, particularly electoral politics. However, it is important to reiterate that social media platforms are not only used during election campaigns, they are also used as influencing mechanisms with sustained impact on the political imaginations of people and, therefore, it is important to analyze the contents uploaded on these sites.
Social media is used as an apparatus by certain groups of people for furthering their ideological premises, and both the left and the right wing have been battling it out on the social media front for more than a decade now.
The battle is, however, not restricted to ideologies only, it has over a period of time become a battle of contesting positions on nation and nationalism. In the context of India, in particular, social media sites have showcased the reflective ideological standpoints. There are pages and groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which propagate an unhealthy anti-national rhetoric which is contrary to the views of the present government. The handlers of these groups are unabashed in their attack on not only the government but the nation itself. In this paper, a case analysis of Facebook has been made.
Facebook: A Tool for Anti-Government Propaganda
There is an evident rise in anti-government and anti-BJP tendencies which are reflected through groups on Facebook and other social media platforms. With over 2.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide.
There are a number of groups and pages on Facebook which propagate anti-BJP sentiments. The table given below provides a detailed account of their nature and membership. The names mentioned below are a representative image of the anti-BJP, anti-Modi propaganda on Facebook.
Apart from these groups, there are several pages which are liked by adherents of the anti-BJP brigade. An analysis of Facebook pages reveal that there are five active pages which have a combined viewership of 48,900.
A content analysis of these groups and pages throw light on the vicious and brutal attack on the Modi government. All the groups publish memes attacking the government and the Prime Minister. Videos of speeches delivered by opposition parties are posted in order to promote their views. The contents are more often than not objectionable in nature. The concept of nationalism is also ridiculed in many of these groups. There are frequent references to BJP being an instrument of Fascism and PM Modi being a Fascist, with doctored clippings used as proofs against the incumbent government. The state governments and chief ministers of BJP are also caricatured and scorned at on these pages.
Facebook is a premier social media site with subscribers from across the globe. It has a worldwide impact which mandates it to be a responsible forum for exchange of ideas, however, as the data suggests, there are many groups and pages on this platform which are seen to be using abusive language against the incumbent government of India. Facebook and other social media sites play a critical role in circulating news, but in contemporary times, social media platforms are being used for distorting news and manipulating the minds of the people.
The social media is being used as an effective tool to harness anti-Modi sentiments, thereby, perpetrating a sense of fear among the common masses against the present government and the Prime Minister. A conclusive analysis of the use of social media and its impact on the political discourse can be made only if a comprehensive analysis of other social media platforms is done, however, from a case analysis of Facebook, it is evident that this platform is definitely being used by certain groups to foment hatred against not only the government as a state machinery but in many ways against the nation as an entity.
(Assistant Professor, Amity School of Liberal Arts, Amity University Haryana)